Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Aliquippa: Hub of Bloodshed?

On Sunday, both stories above the fold on the front of the New York Times sports section originated in Western Pennsylvania.

One of the stories, naturally, was about the U.S. Open at Oakmont. (All week, I was amazed by how frequently the New York press referred to "Oakmont" but not always indicating the course was located near Pittsburgh.)

But, there was no mention of finely-manicured greens in the other Sunday NYT Sports piece – a profile by Thayer Evans of Herb Pope, a star high school basketball player fleeing violent crime and family troubles in Aliquippa, Beaver County.

From the article:

But later on Davis Street, a prostitute haggled over a payment, drug deals took place in broad daylight and crack addicts staggered aimlessly. It is also the hub of bloodshed in Plan 11, a section of this athlete-rich western Pennsylvania town of about 12,000 where shots are fired almost every day.

Pope was unfazed by the empty beer bottles strewn about Jessie Belle Walker Park. The 6-foot-9, 217-pound Pope shot 3-pointers and occasionally dunked. His 30-minute workout was remarkable, considering that about two months earlier he was shot once in his left forearm, once in his thigh and twice in his abdomen. Pope said he was hospitalized for nearly two weeks and lost 37 pounds. He said two of the bullets remain in his body.

On his way from the park to home, where he lives with an aunt and uncle, Amy Pope-Smith and Ronald Smith, a gunshot rang out in the distance before 8 a.m., a reminder that not everyone in Plan 11 was asleep.

The photo above from the Times Website is credited to the Post-Gazette's Steve Mellon.

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