Can you imagine of losing two children at one of the busiest place on earth in the summer? It was not my imagination because I did. I lost two children at Walt Disney World, Florida, once. Here is one of my travelling stories.
Years ago, I pioneered the first study tour for King Car Education Foundation and lead the first group of children and parents to visit Jacksonville, Florida. That was their first time to organize a large group of people to travel overseas for a summer camp at a private high school in Florida. I was asked to be the volunteer to lead the group as an escort teacher. At that time, I was hosting a radio program called Co Co and Po Po Time for King Car. It made perfect sense for King Car to send us as the escort teachers to oversee the ESL program organized by the private high school in Jacksonville.
Most of the group members were children, but we also had quite a lot of parents who came along with us. The private school organized some activities for parents during the day when the children were in class. I do not remember the exact number of people we took with us on that trip to Florida. I would guess the total number, including adults and children, was about 52 people. It was not easy to please everybody in the group, I would say. The worst part was to take care of a group of children whose parents did not come on the trip with them.
In the group, there were two cute brother and sister who were particularly hyperactive throughout the whole visit in Jacksonville. They were not the greatest listeners and always wanted to do things their way since their parents were not around. Ever since we first met, I had realized that it would be a tough journey with both of them. For every step of the program, I literally had to repeat my instructions many times to them to ensure that they would follow closely.
After three weeks of language camp in the private school, we finally started a week long journey to visit different attractions before heading back to Taiwan. One of the attraction stops was the Disney World, in Orlando, Florida. Everyone was excited about the visit to the Disney World where thousands of tourists from all over the world would roam through each day.
When our bus arrived at the parking lot, I warned everybody about the busy park. I repeated over and over again about our meeting place at the gate. I told them that the bus would be parked at the lot “number 123”, and that would be the place where we would be meeting and boarding the bus at 9:00 in the evening. I told all parents to be careful of holding on to their own children since all the children were not fluent English speakers, and neither did the parents. I told all the children who were travelling alone without their parents to follow their assigned leaders closely. We had enough parents and leaders to take care of the children.
Right after we entered the Magic Kingdom, I showed everybody where the Lost and Found Centre was. Children were so fascinated with the massive attraction that I doubted that they actually listened to me at that time. Anyway, after explaining all the safety precautions, the parents started to head out with their groups. I, along with the leader and the tour guide, also divided up the children and then entered the park
At each Disney World, they had scheduled parades on the main street throughout the day. A short while after the morning Disney Parade, the group leader and a parent came to tell me that those two brother and sister went missing after the parade. Those kids probably tried to find a better spot to see the parade and decided to leave their small group. I was so mad that I could have strangled them. After the parade, the crowds started to dissipate and everyone started to move in all different directions. Most people would cram the stores to shop right after the parade. So, the brother and sister were separated from the leader and now those two brats went missing!
There were millions of people walking around in the Disney World attraction park. Where on earth were we supposed to start looking for those two small children who could not speak a word of English? I immediately went to Lost and Found to report the missing children. Then, I went back to the park entrance gate. Those two kids were not there at the gate! Didn't I remind them so many times that they should come to the gate if they were lost?! We walked along the main street following the route of the parade and weaving in and out of the souvenir shops to search for them. There were so many people that day, but there were no brother and sister to be found!
I don’t know if anyone of you could actually relate to the churning emotions that went through me that day. The frustration, nervousness, anger and heaviness were running through my mind and my stomach. It was so sickening and totally beyond words! I could have had a heart-attack right then and there. That anxiety still affects me till this day to no end, especially, whenever I take children on a field trip. I still get really paranoid!
*** Since I am not in prison at the time of writing this article and I had never been put in one, you probably can guess the result must be a happy ending. ***
We looked everywhere for more than an hour. The security at Disney was notified and they were out helping us as well. The tour leader from King Car was almost in tears because we didn’t really know what else to do. Finally, I thought of the lecture I gave them before we stepped off the bus in the morning. I did tell them the parking lot number. If those two kids were smart enough, maybe they would have gone back to the bus to wait for us. Unfortunately, we knew the bus already left and would not return to pick us up until 9:00PM in the evening.
I thought it would be a long shot, but I still went back to check the parking lot. Anyway, I left the Magic Kingdom alone and walked across the huge parking lot to search for them. Half way through the parking lot, I could identify two little figures at a distance, standing at the parking lot number 123, waving at me like crazy, and jumping up and down. Those two little brats were smart enough to return to the parking lot and wait at the empty lot where the bus used to park. Thank Goodness, they remembered my words!
Honestly, I forgot to get upset with them for I was just happy to find them. Can you imagine of losing two kids and finally finding them back at the busiest spot on earth in the summer time? Well, it happened to me once and I wouldn’t wish it to happen on my worst enemy!
Post Note: Those two kids would be grown-ups by now. If they were reading this article, I would like them to know that, due to their naughty behaviour, millions of my brain cells died that day after losing them for a few hours. (That’s why I am not too smart.) I am still waiting for an apology from them. (Dream on, I know.)