Vandalism destroys calm of local cemeteries

Vandalism destroys calm of local cemeteries This scene greeted people who visited Clay Creek Cemetery, rural Vermillion, shortly before Memorial Day. Many grave markers at BluffView Cemetery in Vermillion � some dating back to the turn of the century, have also been the target of recent vandalism attacks. By Editorial Count yourself lucky if you haven�t suffered through the desecration/vandalism of a cemetery where a loved one is supposed to rest in peace.

Unfortunately, there are people in the Vermillion area who aren�t that lucky. Vandals have struck the BluffView Cemetery in the city.

Several gravemarkers � some that stood for over a century, scoured by South Dakota�s ice and snow in the winter and baked by heat in the summer � were no match to the thugs who broke them into pieces last month.

All you have to do is glance at the picture on this page to get a notion of another dose of senseless destruction that occurred at Clay Creek Cemetery shortly before Memorial Day when local residents made a yearly pilgrimage there to visit the graves of friends and loved ones.

No doubt people who care about the BluffView and Clay Creek cemeteries want to know what they can do, who they can contact for help in restoring the gravestone of a grandfather or great-grandfather, the stone of someone significant to the history of a town, or even in some cases, someone they never knew personally, but with whom there was a �connection.�

Perhaps they were attracted by the beauty of the stone itself, the graceful work of the carver, the unique inscription or an unusual name. Sadly, many of the markers damaged at BluffView could easily be described as works of art before vandals changed all of that.

Sadly, many of those headstones mark the graves of infants and toddlers who died in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Cemeteries are outdoor historical and cultural museums, designed for both the living and the dead. There�s nothing macabre about enjoying a stroll on the neatly trimmed grounds among rows of graves.

A cemetery can be a wonderful place for regaining a sense of what�s important in life and a place to calmly meditate and regain a sense of proportion.

This calm is quickly lost once a cemetery has been vandalized. Perhaps some of the stones can in some way be pieced together, but they will never be the same and the cemetery itself may never �feel� the same to anyone who enters it.

We don�t have to stand by helplessly and watch this destruction occur. There are steps that can be taken to hopefully discourage future vandals.

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.

Accompany your kids to the library or one of the museums in town and find a element of the community that compels youth to develop a connection with their local history.

Examine the fine etchings and artwork present in both contemporary and aging grave markers. Talk to your kids about the artistic elements that make some markers unique. Make a mystery or treasure hunt, if you will, about finding a particular stone.

The recent rash of vandalism may mean it�s time to introduce local history teachers to the thought of using our local outdoor museums for history lessons.

Vandalism to cemeteries is incomprehensible and infuriating. When vandals strike cemeteries they are attacking not only those no longer living, but also their loved ones who still survive.

When a loved one�s gravestone is smashed, that act leaves scars that last long after the damage is repaired. We live in a community that should reassure us with a set of collective values.

We assume that our neighbors share values that say it is wrong to smash a gravestone. When it is made clear to us that we are living side by side with people who live by a different moral and ethical code, it is disturbing and isolating.

The bond of trust that links us is broken and isn�t repaired easily. These crimes go beyond the monetary damage they cause.

They are serious violations of our rights and should be dealt with severely.

After all, these are not only objects that are broken and destroyed. All of this affects real people. The sooner that message is understood, the better off we all will be.

The Vermillion Plain Talk editorials reflect the opinion of Plain Talk editor David Lias. You may contact him at

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