Should we wait till half a cemetery is destroyed to speak out, or only be concerned when it is a more modern cemetery? After all, the old memorials are weathered and OLD. And there probably isn’t any family left that cares anymore anyway.
We all know that after dark a cemetery is far too “spooky” and all adolescents would not dare enter this sacred ground. (Sounds like a challenge most teens would have to meet.) The more curious, adventurous, lonely, rowdy and “just for the heck of it” type teens see the cemetery as a place of refuge. They’re the only ones brave enough to go there after dark and defy society. It’s a place to gather, smoke, drink and not be hassled by adults. It’s been like this for generations.A community needs to foster an attitude that lets these teens know that respect is part of the program. If they learn how to appreciate the local cemetery and the history it holds, instead of the emphasis being on death and scary ideals, perhaps we could curb some this destructive energy.
What can you do ?
Take an afternoon walk through your local cemetery with the family. Introduce your children (and yourselves) to the who’s who and the artwork that’s there to be admired.
Visit the local library or historic center and find a connection that interest the children in having a connection with their local history. Make a mystery or treasure hunt, if you will, about finding a particular stone.
Introduce your local history teacher to the thought of using your local outdoor museum for a history lesson.
Encourage your local police to patrol the cemetery more often. Notify the police and your local cemetery authority when you see even one new toppled stone or similar problem.
When the word gets out that someone does care and is watching – problems will lessen. When you see damage like the photo here, it is not always vandalism. Metal pinning causes condensation, rusting and movement. The pins will eventually bend or break, and the weight of the stone will naturally topple it. We suggest that in cases where repinning is necessary, the use of nylon rod for strength and flexability should be encouraged as a replacement.
On the weekend of February 7 – 8, 1998, Center Cemetery in Torrington, CT was the scene of a horrific act of gravestone destruction. Approximately 280 of the 1,400 stones in the Cemetery (founded in the 1840’s) were either toppled, damaged or destroyed. Police are holding two 14-year-olds and are searching for a 17-year-old in connection with this mindless crime. When we visited the Torrington cemetery, we met a couple of young men that at first I wrongly assumed were there to survey the damage caused by their friends, “like wow”.
Center Cemetery, Torrington
We were pleasantly surprised when they expressed shock and concern about “How could this happen?”and, “How soon could things be fixed?” AND what could they do to help!!! Please put your words of dismay at these incidents into action and be part of a movement to correct this atmosphere of non-caring about our old cemeteries. CGN will be happy to help you with ideas and put you in touch with resources for your teachers.