Collingdale cemetery desecrated

July 24, 2008 4:10:49 PM PDT
Losing a relative is one thing. Seeing that person's resting place desecrated is another. Claudette Joiner calls the scene at historic Eden Cemetery devastating.

Over 200 headstones have been knocked over in the last two weeks. She has several generations of her family buried in the African American cemetery that dates back to the mid-18th century, when even final resting places were racially segregated.

"It's very, very disturbing to come in here knowing that your people are supposed to be resting and to see all these tombstones knocked over like this, I mean, it's terrible," Joiner said.

Joiner's brother, Ronald Smart, a former police officer and firefighter permanently injured on the job, surveyed the damage and he is bitter.

"Whoever it is, their loved ones must not be here, because they have no feeling for anybody else's loved ones. I hope they catch them," Smart said.

Police believe local teens out carousing, drinking, and horsing around on weekends are the guilty parties.

"Not racially motivated whatsoever, no hate crime, nothing along those lines, it's just kids being stupid," Chief Robert Adams of the Collingdale Police said.

Eden is the final resting place for a number of historic figures including legendary opera pioneer Marian Anderson and 19th century abolitionist and Underground Railroad godfather William Still.

The headstone for another civil rights champion of the 19th century Octavius Catto was among those toppled.

The cost to right them again is roughly $300 each. This weekend, the Delaware County Community Service Department will pitch in to help right this wrong.

50 volunteers are coming to set the headstone back up, but on this day that is little consolation for Robert Borders, Jr., who found many of his ancestors headstones ruthlessly knocked down.

"There have always been a couple of stones turned over, but this is just outrageous here," Borders said.

Anyone with information is asked to call Collingdale Police at 610-586-0502.

Click here to get the latest Philadelphia news and headlines from across the Delaware and Lehigh valleys.