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Considered the worst terrorist attack to date in Walt Disney World, FL., the terrorist attacks in Epcot took place around the year 2012, as the park prepared itself for its 30th anniversary, by restoring two of its attractions – Test Track (refurbished quicker and earlier than its official opening date in OT), and the much needed Wonders of Life pavilion, which was targeted in the attacks. The death toll was estimated to be around 50 in the building – 12 were cast members trapped in the buildings, while the remaining 38 were the first guests selected for a simulator ride run in the attraction prior to the attacks.
Before the Attacks
Statistics: The Wonders of Life pavilion, a target for the terrorist attacks, was Epcot's primary life and health pavilion located in Future World East. Once home to health focused attractions – from Body Wars, a thrill ride simulation tour through the circulatory and respiratory system in the simulator wing, through to Craniuum Command, a theatrical demonstration of the brain-body relationship in the theater wing – the pavilion opened in October 1989 to millions of visitors. The pavilion comprised of four separate buildings, providing room for the attractions – the domed foyer, the simulator wing, the theater wing, and the second level auxiliary wing, home to a conference and functions room reserved for special events. While in OT the pavilion is used as convention space, this article follows a different timeline, when the Wonders of Life pavilion is finally restored, albeit to a tragic start.
New Year's Day in 2007: one of Epcot's attractions pavilions, Wonders of Life, closes down after a run without sponsorship, right on the park's 25th anniversary. However, little do guests know that a major revamp and restoration effort for the pavilion, as well as Test Track and other Future World pavilions (including Spaceship Earth and The Living Seas as evidenced in OT), is currently underway as part of the five year plan for Future World, announced by CEO Iger.
2008-2011: During the five year plan, engineers have worked hard in restoration and updating of the attractions. For the Wonders of Life pavilion, the pavilion's simulator rides wing (once home to an attraction called Body Wars) had equipment updates, with some documentation dating from circa 2009 during refurbishment. The theater wing next to it also underwent restoration and repairs (the attraction, Cranium Command, resides there, and after restoration, was scheduled to remain for a new generation of visitors). It was around 2011 when the Wonders of Life pavilion was finally competed, with cast members trained in numerous attraction niches.
October 1, 2012, 8:25am: Thirty five minutes before the pavilion is scheduled to open, as part of the anniversary celebrations of the park. Cast members gather outside of the pavilion's auxiliary buildings backstage - while some are checking for security breaches, others engage in small talk with each other. Two cast members lead five advance groups of 25 guests (around 125 guests in total) to tour the pavilion, prior to its official opening hour of 9:00 am. Eight are in training, five are transfers and handfuls of others have been trained in the same attractions.
8:51am: One SUV unit, driven by a suicide terrorist and carrying a bomb inside its cabin, speeds through the backstage area, and slams into the pavilion's simulator ride wing. The bomb explodes on impact, tearing a hole into the building, and igniting the building. The simulators buckle, some fall, leaving some of the guests trapped inside the ride cabins, with no hope of escape. Power is knocked out as a result of the impact, resulting in a crippling power outage inside the pavilion, and into its neighboring pavilions - Mission: Space and Universe of Energy, now vulnerable from the attacks. Emergency services are notified, and guests are evacuated from Future World East, but those trapped in the building face a terrible fate. Cast members and frightened guests attempt to evacuate through the pavilion face, but the doors are locked, preventing escape.
8:59am: Another ambulance driven by a suicide terrorist, and carrying a bomb inside its cabin, speeds around the road bordering Test Track and Mission: Space, and slams directly into Wonders' theater wing, trapping the guests and some of the cast members. Given that some cast members endemic to the Cranium Command attraction area (a military approach to the workings of the human brain) have some military training in an emergency, they put together an alternate evacuation plan - smash open some walls with an available heavy object and escape through the holes in the wall.
9:05am:While fire spreads deeper into the pavilion's rooms due to the extent of the bombings (the simulator bay lies in ruins, the basement levels damaged), emergency services arrive to try to deal with the situation. As Epcot park closes and other special events are cancelled for the day, triage units are established in the Innoventions exhibit halls. Homeland Security receives the news of the terrorist attacks and declare a code red security alert across the US. Businesses in Central Florida close early and a mass exodus operation commences to divert stranded guests and other civilians away from the area.
9:28am: While firefighters extinguish the flames in the structure and free survivors in the simulator wing, the structure of the building begins to collapse, trapping and encasing a group of the guests inside. Due to the extent of the bombings, a sinkhole fault is triggered. At this time, most of the guests have been successfully evacuated from the building through alternate means, but the guests trapped in the burning simulator ride cabins either have little chance to escape, or have been killed in the collapse.
9:47am: The structure is weakened by both spreading fires and bombings, and the entire building is swallowed up by a deep sinkhole. Some are buried alive in the rubble, but most are killed in the terrainian/structural collapse. The sinkhole surprisingly doesn't affect Mission: Space, as the sinkhole has been reportedly filled in with concrete and rebar prior to construction; survivor rescue operations and search efforts for victims remains begin as the smoke clears.
10:00am: Officials deliver a speech pertaining to the terrorist attacks, the speech denounces terrorism as a cowardly act against the nation. The decision to close the parks for a week is upheld, as the nation remains in shock due to the attacks. This announcement was telecast through many television channels, along with updates to the rescue and recovery effort.