JASPER, TX (KTRE) - More than twenty grave sites in the Jasper City Cemetery were destroyed or damaged. The grieving process begins again for friends and family of those buried here. Reverend Rodney Norsworthy of Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church said,"You see people weeping as they walk through and visit some of the graves of some of their friends and loved ones. You see them wiping their tears."
This place is hallowed ground, where generations of families are laid to rest. James Snell's family is buried here. Snell said, "Who would be some sorry rascal who would do this?"
Cemetery keepers think it may have been kids. If it is, Norsworthy said he finds that fact very troubling, but looks to his faith to make sense of the destruction. "As a minister, I have to forgive. But as a man, it still hurts and makes me angry that this happened to our cemetery."
Norsworthy said he plans to direct his emotions into action to restore this once peaceful resting place. "Don't harbor anger. You have to learn to forgive and to forget and then move on."
Moving on will come at a big expense. Repairing just one of the larger columns could cost $6,000. If family members are deceased or cannot be found, restoration will come by the generosity of others.
This is not the first time this cemetery has been targeted by vandals. Many in the community just want their dead to finally rest in peace.
1998 dragging victim James Byrd Junior's grave was spared. "Thanks be to God that they did not touch Mr. Byrd's grave. It would be like reliving that moment in history again. Jasper has [moved] beyond that point," said Norsworthy.
Many of the markers of the city's earliest families were toppled. "You have doctors, you have war veterans and war heroes. You have prominent business owners that are on this list that their graves have been damaged," said Norsworthy.
If the vandals are caught, Norsworthy said he hopes they will understand the pain they have caused. "[There is] a very good lesson to be learned. Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you."
Snell and Norsworthy do not believe the cemetery damages were racially motivated.
If you have any information about the vandalism, please call the Jasper Police Department at (409) 384-3471. If you would like to make a contribution to the cemetery restoration, please contact Rev. Rodney Norsworthy at (409) 384-2691.