Philadelphia/ Community & Society
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Published on May 19, 2024
York Community Bands Together After Vandals Disrupt Historic African American CemeterySource: Google Street View

In an unsettling display of disrespect, vandals toppled stones at a storied African American burial ground in York, PA. Lebanon Cemetery, resting place of more than 300 black veterans, was hit by an apparent act of vandalism, leaving gravestones knocked over and a community in distress. Workers at the cemetery found the disturbed graves on Friday, reported FOX43.

In what can only be described as a thoughtless overnight rampage, between seven and nine headstones were discovered overturned. Fox43 obtained a statement from Samantha Dorm, president of the Friends of Lebanon Cemetery, recounting a distressing call from the treasurer who had filed a police report. “I received a phone call yesterday from our treasurer, who has been helping to make sure the grass gets cut, and he says, ‘Sam, I’ve just filed a police report. We have several stones knocked down,'" Dorm shared. The cemetery now pleads with neighboring homes and businesses to review their security footage for any suspicious activities.

The local organization Friends of Lebanon Cemetery voiced their concern, stating that the lack of comprehensive records hampers their attempts to directly notify families when such incidents strike. The historic site is searching for enduring solutions for its preservation, as revealed by WGAL. With the board struggling to reach out to families, the plea extends to those with kin buried at the site, to visit and assess any potential harm.

Signifying a resilient spirit in the face of repeated disregard, the York community has rallied to restore dignity to the site. Volunteer groups, including a national veteran-led outfit named Team Rubicon, are relentlessly stepping in to undo the damage. “When you see these veteran headstones turned over, it really gives you a horrible sinking feeling in your stomach," stated Chris Marcheski, a Team Rubicon's Central Pennsylvania administrator, as reported by FOX43. A group of Boy Scouts is also scheduled to assist before Memorial Day, underscoring that the community support is indispensable.

Adding to the outcry, Samantha Dorm, in a poignant interview with Local21 News, revealed the deep roots many locals, including herself, have in Lebanon Cemetery. "We have underground railroad conductors. We have abolitionists. We have individuals who were formerly enslaved," she expressed, emphasizing the site's rich heritage. Despite the dolorous event, Dorm sees a chance to educate, remarking, “This has now turned into a teaching moment so that the young people, the future generation, can understand what damage like this does.”

Up till now, the Northern York County Regional Police Department has yet to provide comments regarding the investigation. Meanwhile, cemetery stewards are advancing a clear message: vigilance is key and any unusual nighttime occurrences should be promptly reported to authorities. The collective effort, as echoed by the community's response, aims not just to repair stones, but rather to uphold a legacy etched deep within the soil of Lebanon Cemetery.