Clean up day at vandalized cemetery

July 26, 2008 4:01:00 PM PDT
It was clean up day today at a historic cemetery. Vandals had targeted the Eden Cemetery in Collingdale, knocking over dozens of headstones. Under the hot sun, men worked to return dozens of overturned headstones to their proper resting places atop the graves at the historic Eden Cemetery. 201 stones were tipped over in this sacred place, dating back to the mid-18th century when burial grounds were racially-segregated.

Karen Askew-Teel of Glassboro tells us, "Our history is here and this is just an absolute abomination. There's no reason for anything like this and it hurts."

Eden is the final resting place for historical figures such as legendary opera pioneer Marian Anderson and 19th century abolitionist and Underground Railroad godfather, William Still. The headstone of 18th century civil rights champion, Octavias Catto, was also pushed over.

"Philadelphia, the region here, is rich in history and Eden Cemetery is certainly a major factor in that," says Robert Fuller-Houston.

81-year-old Edith Worley Johnson arrived in time to watch workers fix her family's gravestone.

"I think it's horrible," said Johnson. "I just believe it's horrible and anyone who has to stoop this low is sick."

The county brought in about 40 first-time offenders to perform court-ordered community service working to reset the stones. One worker was injured when a gravestone fell on his hand.

Police are still trying to track down the vandals who desecrated the cemetery. The police chief feels certain it was kids, juveniles, without any idea of the history or the impact of the African American legends beneath these stones.

Collingdale Chief Robert Adams says, "We've talked to some neighbors. We're knocking on doors today as well. Over the past couple of weeks, they've seen kids in here."

Some there today said Eden Cemetery has been the target of vandals for decades. They wonder when their loved ones will be treated with respect and truly rest in peace.

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