Along came the alligator.
A horrifying story at the end of a horrifying stretch, a heartbreaking coda befitting a nation on perpetual edge.
That the story would go viral was guaranteed: a 2-year-old grabbed, his father trying in vain to fight off the primordial beast, an unforeseen danger lurking in what is supposed to be the happiest place on earth.
It is human nature to be mesmerized by such a tale. In the early days of cable news, we could not avert our national gaze from Jessica McClure, the 18-month-old who fell into a well in her aunt's backyard in Midland, Texas. Baby Jessica's rescue was the subject of round-the-clock coverage during the 58 hours workers labored frantically to free her.
Decades before came the Lindbergh Baby, snatched from his crib at 20 months, his decomposed body found two months later, after a tabloid frenzy and a nationwide manhunt, just five miles from home.