It’s amazing how little respect some people have for the dead. The Boston Globe reports that last month, a group of vandals toppled over 90 headstones at historic Laurel Hill Cemetery in Fitchburg, MA. A photo on the Boston Globe site shows a limestone Civil War memorial lying on its side.
The memorial in the historic graveyard contains the weathered names of Fitchburg men who lost their lives to combat or disease in a bloody campaign near the Mississippi River in 1863. Now, their descendants scattered and their exploits all but forgotten, the marker is just another stone upended in one of the worst acts of cemetery vandalism to hit this small city.
”That was an act of valor and courage,” said history buff Donald Lassila, motioning to the names of battles etched on the memorial. Then, turning toward the destruction, he said, ”What would you call this? An act of cowardice?”
Unfortunately, this is only the latest in a string of vandalisms over the last few years. The article reports that about 400 markers have been disturbed over the years.
Check out the online video on the CBS Boston website covering the story. I’m not sure why they only report 40 headstones – I guess as they continued looking, they found more? The video reports that police suspect 3 culprits, since they found 3 individually wrapped malt liquor bottles.
On a positive note, the incident got a number of people to take notice. Last week, a group of about 80 volunteers got together to help fix between 120 and 160 of the headstones. They even brought in a crane for some of the larger stones.
“Really it’s a museum, it’s not a cemetery,” [Ward 3 Councilor Joel Kaddy] said. “This vandalism was the catalyst for getting people to come out and help.”
The vandalism has also grabbed the attention of city officials, who say they hope to re-convene the city’s Cemetery Commission.
The commission hasn’t met for at least a year, Mayor Dan H. Mylott said.
“There’s been a heightened awareness about the historical value of our cemeteries,” Mylott said. “I think maybe this is the right time to try to put them back into shape.”
Lack of money has kept the city from fully maintaining its older cemeteries, Mylott said, and the commission only has one member at present.