What is it about cemeteries that seems to make them such a popular target for vandals?
Do such people find it daring to venture among tombstones late at night and deface the memory of people who can no longer defend themselves at least in this world?
The sad attraction of cemeteries by vandals was illustrated again last weekend when numerous grave markers were broken or pushed over in Oak Hill Cemetery, one of the city's oldest burial plots. Many well-known people from Lawrence's past are buried in this cemetery, which is a historical resource as well as a final resting place.
Whoever wreaked havoc on Oak Hill over the weekend may find it odd that many people have a great interest in and reverence for cemeteries. Family members, of course, go to cemeteries to visit the graves of relatives and recall old memories. But many of the people buried in Oak Hill Cemetery go back beyond any living person's memory. They are part of history, and their graves are a link to our own past.
Most of the victims of William Quantrill's 1863 raid on Lawrence are buried in Oak Hill, as are Kansas' first governor, Charles Robinson, and its first U.S. senator, James Lane. Lucy Hobbs Taylor, the first American woman to graduate from an accredited dental school, practiced in Lawrence and is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery. Also buried there is Sen. Edmund Ross, whose vote saved President Andrew Johnson from impeachment.
These were people who had a real impact on Lawrence and Kansas. And there are thousands of other people buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, whose names may not be as familiar nor their accomplishments as great, but they contributed to their families and their city in ways the vandals who despoil their graves probably would scoff at.
But before they turn over or damage the aging headstones, let's dare those vandals to read what's written on them and consider that the memory they are defaming is that of a real person with a family and a job, who might have walked the same streets the vandals walk today.
Maybe when they meet that image face-to-face it will be a little harder to shove that memory into the ground.