So much for sanctity

When USF Professor Erin Kimmerle and Dr. Christian Wells asked the state of Florida to exhume the graves to find
out what happened at the Dozier school, they were met with furious opposition from the citizens and politicians of
Jackson County. They cried out over the desecration that would take place, the rest and repose of the dead and the
sanctity of the grave.

I have a problem with this outpouring of piety. These bodies were “unmarked human remains,” not the “Christian
buried bodies” as quoted by so many Marianna residents.

Many years previous (1980-1990), Prison Rehabilitative Industries destroyed part of the cemetery during the course
of clearing land. A cemetery on a boys school should have been considered sacred ground. Instead, the cement
crosses were pulled up, thrown and broken and crops were planted. This 38-foot-by-51-foot plot of land could not
have yielded enough of a crop to justify destroying the cemetery.

So much for sanctity.

Let us create a memorial with the names of all the dead who were found, and perhaps a statue that will represent all
of those who will never be found or named. Let us leave a physical symbol that may be touched as a place of
remembrance. May this place be in a park or in a city where this piece of ground will be maintained by the state in

This occurrence, one of Florida’s darkest misdeeds, created by the few yet suffered by many, should never be
forgotten. We should not allow these unfortunate, wayward sons of Florida to once again be returned to that
disgraceful soil.

I remember watching a news video in which Professor Kimmerle looked sadly over the graves and said: “They were
such little fellas.”

The city of Marianna surrounded the boys school in a ring of silence for years. Yet the silent voices of the children
have broken through that barrier, and some have gone home at last. Let us not waver until all are at rest in a place
of dignity and peace.

Robert Straley