Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Gangs at Walmart

         I just received 4 emails and 2 text messages warning of potential dangers at our friendly neighborhood Walmart. One message reads, "DO NOT GO TO WALMART TONIGHT! I've been told a gang is initiating and planning to shoot 3 women." The scare is spreading around town. Apparently the local Target closed early. 
        This news makes for an interesting reaction package in tomorrow's newscast. I can interview girls in my sorority house, ask them questions like, "How did the message make you feel?" "Are you scared?" or "Will you go to Walmart again?" I'll call Summer Hallett, spokeswoman for the Gainesville Police Department, and see if arrests were made, or heaven forbid, shots were fired. 
I took my mother to the Gainesville Walmart a few months ago. She drove up with my little brother to pay me a visit. I remember the fear in her eyes when I responded "yes" to her concerned but serious question, "do you come here alone?"  
Gainesville, Florida has been my home away from home for the past three years. To me, its so much more than a college party-town. It was here that I took my first stab at being a reporter. I even anchored my own radio show last year, (from the hours of 4:00 AM - 7:00 AM, my voice could be heard on AM850, for the Morning Drive). 
According to CNNMoney.com, Gainesville, Florida is one of America's "Best Places to Live." Gainesville is home to National Champions- the Florida Gators. Sports are big in this town, as is the presence of college kids. We're everywhere. However, outside the bubble surrounding the University of Florida, Gainesville has it's fair share of problems. The East side of town for example, is extremely poor. The average household income for a family residing in East Gainesville is a little over $300 a month. That's crazy. The majority of children in public schools here qualify and receive free lunch. This year's state-wide budget cuts hit education in Gainesville, (or Alachua County) the hardest. 
The CNN article didn't mention these facts, not to mention recent gang violence. Did the "Gangs at Walmart" message shock me? Not at all. I've seen the real Gainesville. If you're curious and brave enough to travel down University Avenue, past the familiar restaurants and clubs downtown, you'll also see the real Gainesville. A great place to live for sure, however, without the University of Florida, this place wouldn't be the same. 

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