The heartbroken parents of the 2-year-old boy who was tragically killed by an alligator at Walt Disney World have spoken out for the first time.
At a memorial celebration on what would have been Lane Graves’ third birthday on September 3rd, Melissa and Matt bravely spoke of their devastation at losing their son.
"Anyone who knows me knows I don't like to speak but, my baby, I owe it to him to honor him," mum Melissa tearfully told hundreds of friends and family members at Elkhorn South High School in Elton, Nebraska.
"So his mommy needed to say, 'Happy birthday, Lanie. You're in our hearts today and every second of every other day. You'll always be Mommy's loving, sweet baby boy."
She continued: "When we were apart, you would tell us, 'I missed you,' as we walked through the door. You would always come running with a big hug and kiss. We miss you buddy, and we miss those hugs and kisses. We all love you so very, very much."
In scenes of unimaginable horror the Graves family were on holiday at Disney World in Orlando, Florida when Lane was snatched and killed by an alligator at the Seven Seas Lagoon at Grand Floridian Resort on June 14.
He was making a sand castle when the alligator bit his head.
The final report on Lane's death said he died from a crushing bite and drowning and that his dad reached into the alligator's mouth to try to save him.
Dad Matt also spoke at Saturday's birthday celebration, where the family handed out Lane’s favourite M&M cookie treat, saying: "Today, Lane would have turned 3 years old, but we celebrate his first birthday in heaven with the community that has surrounded us with love and support.
“Melissa and I often speak of how lucky we were to have spent two years, 11 months and 11 days as a complete family. My wife would tell you those were the happiest days of her life and I couldn't agree more."
Matt added: "What I'm also confident about is that our faith has lifted us up as we fight every day to find peace. We would not have been able to get through the pain without this community, our friends and family, and for that we say thank you. There really is no place like Nebraska. Happy birthday, buddy. We miss you, LT."
Matt and Melissa Graves, who are also parents of daughter Ella, recently established the Lane Thomas Foundation to honor their son's memory.
The Graves have said they don't plan to file a lawsuit against Disney World.
After Lane's death, Disney made changes to restrict contact between visitors and alligators on the property.
The company built fences and barriers around some of the lakes and installed 'No Fishing' signs around waterfront areas. Disney World also limited fishing to excursions.