Friday, November 2, 2012

And the Dead Shall Rise

It’s still dark this morning, and raining lightly, two days after Hurricane Sandy left the east coast of the United States. With New York City’s subway tunnels filled with water and the Atlantic City boardwalk washed away, I consider myself (in Philadelphia) quite fortunate to have suffered nothing more than a potted plant blown off my garden wall. Alright, extremely fortunate.

With all this focus on property damage, you would think someone would mention a cemetery here or there. That’s where I come in. It happens to be Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead, see link below) as I write this (hence the sugar skull cake in the photo above – hey, cakes rise, don’t they? Get the clever irony – “And the Dead Shall Rise?” … all right, that was pretty weak).

Coffin rising from the ground, Crisfield, MD (ref)
At also happens to be the Christian All Souls Day. As Hurricane Sandy’s waters recede, the U.S. death toll continues to rise. Let’s remember those fifty-five souls today - along with the sixty-nine people who died in the Caribbean prior to Sandy making landfall in the United States.

So, as I was mentioning, cemeteries, like any other property, can incur storm damage. Note the expelled coffin rising out of the ground in the photo above, from Crisfield, Maryland. The image was borrowed from the news article, “Hurricane Sandy forces coffins of the dead to rise up from the ground” ( "Coffins of the dead ...?" As opposed to coffins of the - living? Whoever wrote that is being a bit dramatic, wouldn't you say?

Anyway, cemeteries suffer damage right along with the rest of us. I imagine that Atlantic City Cemetery looks much worse right now than it did this past summer when I took the photo above. (Ironically, a mausoleum might be the safest place to be during a hurricane!) A storm had obviously ripped through the place, which one might assume happened just before I arrived. Truth is, such damage may go uncorrected for quite a while. Under some circumstances, cemeteries, like any other business or private entity, must wrangle with their insurance companies to be paid for storm damage! 

Toppled headstones
I was in Pittsburgh’s (Pennsylvania) wonderful Allegheny Cemetery back in 1990, and was amazed to see dozens of giant fallen trees – some out in the open, some crushing dense clusters of tombstones and monuments. I mentioned this to someone in the office who told me that a hurricane hit six months prior and toppled fifty trees. The cemetery was slowly cleaning up, at its own expense − having so far removed half the fallen trees. I asked, “Don’t you have insurance for this?” I was told, “Well, since the weather service declared it a ‘tropical cyclone’ as opposed to a ‘hurricane,’ the insurance company wouldn’t pay.” I was actually put in the exact same position last year by my own insurance company, Allstate, after Hurricane Irene – I mean ‘tropical storm’ Irene – ripped a hole in the back of my house.

The headstones in the photo above were not toppled by Hurricane Sandy. I just inserted the photo for effect (so how did they fall?).
The "sugar skull" cake at the beginning of the blog was in window of Brendenbeck's Bakery, Chestnut Hill, PA ( Looks luscious, doesn't it?
Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead