A Grave Offense
Published: October 21st, 2008
By: Tyler Murphy

A grave offense

The shocking news of late has involved a group of drunken teenagers who desecrated St. Joseph’s Cemetery and then, unable to sate their stupidity, decided to break into the Oxford Memorial Library.

Now I’ve had a few of my own crazy nights, but I’ve yet to cross the alcohol-fueled temptation to grab a shovel and go to a cemetery; though I’m sure some loathsome frat boys I knew in college probably fought the urge.

It’s not much of a secret that graveyards occasionally conceal the standard teenage debauchery (or at least it had in my day), and I think it’s important not to confuse the offenders of this desecration with the general mischief-makers in the younger population. These perpetrators are utter criminals.

Just the idea walking over a person’s grave makes most people go around. Can you imagine intentionally tipping over a headstone? Or thirty of them?

I traveled to the cemetery and saw dozens of stones lying face down like dominos, stretching from one side of the hill to the other. For those who don’t know, local Catholics built their early cemeteries on hills because it was cheaper land; the down side, literally, that was clearly demonstrated here, is leverage.

Often these graves are looking in the direction of the valley, so the tombstones were shoved in the direction of the down grade, falling on top of those laid to rest beneath. Standing alone in the worst section, it felt more like cut rocks in a quarry than a cemetery.

Father Thomas Ward of St. Joseph’s Church called the effort Herculean, and that’s what it was. Several of the pieces lying on the ground were several hundred pounds of 150-year-old granite carved to honor a loved one who could have died fighting the Civil War.

The three shameless youths who committed these acts truly put their backs into it. Using a shovel and spade they originally brought to dig up a corpse, they spent half an hour destroying the most historic part of the cemetery. You think that’d be enough, but these over-achievers decided to walk all the way across town at about 2 a.m. and break into a library.

So desecrate a graveyard, then steal from the library ... what the hell is wrong with these kids? Where were their parents?

While I was snapping pictures for the paper Saturday morning, I ran into two men slowly walking between fallen headstones with expressions that one might expect to see an ongoing burial and mourners atop the hill.

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