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'She was our sister': Fort Valley restaurant holds balloon release to honor Anitra Gunn

Eighteen 36 employees released 23 balloons to mark the student's age.

FORT VALLEY, Ga. — Members of the Fort Valley community came together to honor the life of Anitra Gunn on Thursday. Restaurant Eighteen 36 was filled with people who knew the 23-year-old student. 

"She was our sister. She was our teammate," said restaurant owner Kelvin Blalock. 

Blalock says Gunn was a hardworking employee and he wanted to do something to honor her. The ceremony began in prayer. 

"And ask that you would comfort, strengthen, and guide us," said one Fort Valley pastor.

Fort Valley professor Bobby Dickey says Gunn had two classes with him.

"I spoke with her on Wednesday and she was just excited for the semester," said Dickey. 

The crowd made their way outside of the restaurant to release 23 balloons marking Gunn's age. Other Fort Valley students and friends released balloons of their own.

Fort Valley Mayor Barbara Williams says the entire community is hurting.

"We all are like family, so it's like we have lost close kin," said Williams. 

It's a feeling that hit hard for former daycare coworker Sandra Marshall.   

"I grew to love her as one of my own children," said Marshall. 

The community says they will keep her memory alive. 

"I thought she represented FVSU well," said Williams. 

Anitra's father launched the 'Anitra Gunn Memorial Fund' fundraiser on GoFundMe. 

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