Fact Check

Photo Shows People Leaving Disney World on 9/11?

A Reddit user posted a picture of a large crowd appearing to walk away from Cinderella Castle and head for the exits at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando.

Published May 14, 2024

A sign near an entranceway to Walt Disney World on May 22, 2023, in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A sign near an entranceway to Walt Disney World on May 22, 2023, in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Claim:
A photo captures park guests exiting the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World on Sept. 11, 2001.

On May 9, 2024, Reddit user u/chaairs posted a photo on the r/pics subreddit with the caption, "People leaving Walt Disney World on 9/11." Several?well-meaning?online postings also featured the same picture and claim.

The photo seemed to capture a large crowd walking away from the iconic Cinderella Castle and heading for the exits during daylight hours at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

However, another Reddit user with the handle u/Spartan2470 commented, providing the truth of the matter.

"It looks like this image is from August 13, 2004," u/Spartan2470 said, linking to a page on the Alamy.com stock-image website. We found the same result when performing a reverse-image search on TinEye.com. Orlando Sentinel photographer Joe Burbank snapped the picture nearly three years after the terrorist attacks in the U.S. of Sept. 11, 2001.

The caption on Alamy.com for the photo was as follows:

Thousands of guests at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida, jam Main Street USA to exit the park after it was announced that it was closing at 1pm due to "inclement weather," Friday, August 13, 2004. Hurricane Charley is forecast to strike Central Florida later Friday. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

According to the newspaper-archiving website Newspapers.com, Indiana's Rushville Republican newspaper published the photo in its print edition with the caption about Hurricane Charley on Aug. 14, 2004. On the same day, the Orlando Sentinel published a different picture — choosing an alternative view Burbank captured of Disney World — which showed a nearly empty Main Street USA inside the Magic Kingdom.

Apart from the miscaptioned photo, we gathered several links providing more information about what both Disneyland and Disney World were like on 9/11.?Disneyland sits in Anaheim, California, in a time zone three hours behind Disney World's. Disneyland and its counterpart, California Adventure, never opened on the day of the attacks, according to Fandom.com.

Photos of an Empty Disneyland

On Sept. 11, 2011, writer Doug Marsh published an article titled "9/11 at Disneyland" on the Disney fan blog LaughingPlace.com.?The story features insight and several photos taken on 9/11, all from Disneyland security hostess Ginger Fleming, who remained in the empty park that day.

Marsh wrote in the story, "Ginger would later describe it as the happiest place on earth on the saddest day she could ever remember being there."

Video of Disney World on 9/11

On 9/11, journalist Christina Arangio filed a video report for the Florida News Network, showing footage of crowds enjoying the Magic Kingdom and then later heading for the exits. In 2021, 10 Tampa Bay?WTSP reposted the report on YouTube.

The report includes audio of a male voice making an announcement over theme park speakers, stating, "Due to unforeseen circumstances, the Magic Kingdom is now closing."

A Family's Remembrance of Disney World on 9/11

The Jerry's Takes Plus YouTube channel features a video telling the story of one boy's family visiting Disney World on the morning of 9/11.?While the video repeatedly displays Burbank's 2004 photo, the account still claims to provide eyewitness insight into what it was like on 9/11 inside "The Most Magical Place On Earth."

For further reading, ClickOrlando.com released an in-depth article titled "9/11 at Walt Disney World: A day that changed tourism forever" on Sept. 11, 2021.

Sources

"9/11 20 Years Later: New York Tourists React to 9/11 Terrorist Attacks While Disney Closes." YouTube, 10 Tampa Bay, 11 Sept. 2001, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVPqETQs5YU.

Alamy.com. https://www.alamy.com/.

"Impact of 9/11 on The Walt Disney Company." Disney Wiki, https://disney.fandom.com/wiki/Impact_of_9/11_on_The_Walt_Disney_Company.

Jackson, Jerry W., et al. "Parks Clear out Ahead of Storm." Newspapers.com, Orlando Sentinel, 14 Aug. 2004, https://www.newspapers.com/article/the-orlando-sentinel/147017421/.

Marsh, Doug. "9/11 at Disneyland." LaughingPlace.com, 11 Sept. 2011, https://www.laughingplace.com/w/articles/2015/09/11/911-at-disneyland/.

Pilcher, Ken. "9/11 at Walt Disney World: A Day That Changed Tourism Forever."?WKMG, 12 Sept. 2021, https://www.clickorlando.com/theme-parks/2021/09/12/september-11th-at-walt-disney-world-a-day-that-changed-tourism-forever/.

"Stronger-than-Expected Hurricane Charley Slams into Florida Coast, Widespread Flooding Expected." Newspapers.com, Rushville Republican via The Associated Press, 14 Aug. 2004, https://www.newspapers.com/article/rushville-republican/147017666/.

TinEye Reverse Image Search. https://tineye.com/.

u/chaairs. "People Leaving Walt Disney World on 9/11." r/pics via Reddit.com, 9 May 2024, https://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/1cog75f/people_leaving_walt_disney_world_on_911/.

"What Walt Disney World Was Like on 9/11." YouTube, Jerry's Takes Plus, 16 Mar. 2024, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4KjVJcpa2s.

Jordan Liles is a Senior Reporter who has been with Snopes since 2016.