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Thursday, June 16, 2016

TRAGEDIES IN ORLANDO

I first visited Orlando in the early days of Disney World.  The major university at the time in the 70's was Florida Technological University with an enrollment of less than 2,000.  The University of Hawaii then had 20,000 students on our main campus of Manoa.  The population of the greater Orlando area was approximately half that of Hawaii.  Then people came to central Florida, hordes of them.

FTU was renamed University of Central Florida, and today has the largest undergraduate enrollment in the USA.  The total number of students is at around 61,000.  The University of Hawaii Manoa?  We might still have maybe 20,000 students.

Orlando has seen spectacular growth through the past four decades.  The city itself only has 263,000 people, but the Orlando metropolitan area is now approaching 2.4 million, growing at 50,000/year.  From half the population of Hawaii forty years ago, soon the greater Orlando area will have twice as many people.

The history of Orlando is prosaic and debatable, called Jernigan in the mid-1800's because the first settler was Aaron Jernigan.  Here, the story becomes sketchy, for there was the soldier killed by Seminoles named Orlando Reeves, and rancher Orlando Rees, plus Orlando, a not particularly important character in Shakespeare's As You Like It.

So, anyway, Orlando was named to be the county seat of the new Orange County in 1856, attaining town status in 1875 and a city in 1885.  This was Orlando's previous Golden Era, when it became the hub of Florida's citrus industry, except that regular freezes ended some of that.  World War II brought Pinecastle Army Air Field, which in 1956 became McCoy Air Force Base after Colonel Michael McCoy, who was killed in a B-47 crash north of Orlando.  When McCoy AFB closed in 1975, the base was imparted to the city and named Orlando International Airport, retaining MCO as the airport code.

Map from Orlando, FL to Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, FL 32830When Walt Disney announced in 1965 the selection of what has become Lake Buena Vista, less than 15 miles from Orlando, the future of the area was established.  Today, there are more theme parks and entertainment attractions than anywhere else in the world.  I count 17 amusement centers.

So in the midst of all this happiness and fantasy came three tragedies in a row:
  • On June 10, Christina Grimmie was murdered by Kevin James Loibi, a resident of St. Petersburg, following her performance at The Plaza Live in Orlando.  Grimmie came in third in the 6th season (2014) of The Voice.  Loibi was a dangerously infatuated fan who brought with him two handguns, two extra magazines and a hunting knife, killed her, then shot himself.  There was nothing particularly alarming about him, still living with his father and brother, so buying killing weapons was not a problem in our country.
  • Two nights later Omar Mateen massacred 49 people at Pulse, an Orlando gay night club.  My postings of Monday and Tuesday this week provide all the details.  Mateen, too, was relatively "safe," having been born in the U.S. and having a job with a security company.  There was nothing on his official record that would have prevented him from flying on any commercial flight, and he purchased his arsenal with ease.  Like Loibi, his everyday actions and statements could have alerted people to what happened.  But if what people say is translated to official FBI or authority follow-up, you would need a staff of many millions and a budget of hundreds of billion dollars just to check on them, with ridiculous few thusly being deterred.
  • Sateen could have just as well committed his slaughter at the Disney World complex, which is where tragedy #3 occurred on June 14 when a 4-7 foot alligator grabbed a 2-year-old boy at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.  His drowned body was found yesterday.  No guns here, but earlier this month Richard Taylor also was killed by an alligator in Lakeland, Florida.  Last year two in Florida and one in Texas were alligator casualties.  However, it was in 2007 that the next alligator death occurred, in Miami.  This individual breaking into a car, was chased by police, and unfortunately, for him, he jumped into a retention pond with a 9 foot alligator.  Should Florida get rid of all alligators?  Every year for the past half a century from 30,000 to 55,000 have annually died in traffic accidents.  I don't see cars being barred anytime soon. 
I don't see guns being barred in the USA anytime soon either.  The U.S. Congress will struggle through a difficult next few months of Democrats attempting to gain November votes by trying to embarrass Republicans patriotically trying to preserve the Second Amendment.  Even Donald Trump is earning the ire of conservative traditionalist for his supposed siding with Democrats on the matter of preventing gun sales to potential terrorists.  However, as indicated above, whatever Congress might invoke will have no affect on the above tragedies.  Just the general easy availability of guns in the country is the problem:

The US has nearly six times the gun homicide rate as Canada, more than seven times as Sweden, and nearly 16 times as Germany, ...


This will take a generation and more to sort out.

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