Thursday, September 11, 2014

Current Affairs: One Last Word

On the Monday after the Memorial and Dedication Ceremony for the Lynn Cemetery on the 12th High School site, I was contacted by Moriah Balingit of The Washington Post for one last interview regarding the controversy and events of the past year.  I was a bit surprised but very grateful that The Post was interested in the ceremony and the closure that it brought to both Prince William County Schools and the Lynn family.

The Media is an interesting animal.  In this age of the Internet and instant information, it's a mighty tool that can be wielded to inspire and galvanize people and organizations into action for a common good.  Unfortunately, it can also be a weapon to perpetuate negativity.

It was the Media that first brought to light the discovery of the 11 graves on the 12th High School construction site and PWCS's rush to remove them to make way for their football stadium.  At the beginning of the storm, I and several of my Lynn cousins were contacted by reporters from many different newspapers and television stations.  That media scrutiny helped galvanize the public and historical community to fight for a tiny 19th century cemetery on the brink of extinction.

I am sincerely grateful to each and every periodical and reporter that took an interest and kept the story in the pubic eye until all parties were able to come to an amicable solution.  Of them all, two stand out for special thanks:

(1) Thank you to InsideNova for breaking the story in August 2013 and staying with it!  This small Northern Virginia newspaper led the charge.

(2) Thank you to The Washington Post.  Mike Ruane's front page article on December 3, 2013 was a balanced, well written piece that fairly reported both sides of the controversy and brought the story to an unexpected national level.  I'd also like to thank The Post for being the only periodical interested enough to stay with the story until its full closure with Saturday's Memorial and Dedication Ceremony, when former "adversaries" came together in compromise to honor the resting place of a 19th century farming family.

Following is the full text of Ms. Balingit's (9 September 2014) article, which can be found on the The Washington Post website.

By 2016, a now-rocky plot south of Manassas will be home to rowdy football games and a new high school.
But on Saturday, it was the site of a solemn moment as Prince William County school officials and members of a local family gathered to dedicate a burial plot for the remains from a more than century-old grave. The grave, which likely belonged to ancestors of the Lynn family, was unearthed when contractors were preparing to build playing fields for the new school.
With the ceremony, Prince William County Public Schools put to rest a controversy that pit the system against local historians and the Lynn family, whose roots run deep in the area.
Concerns arose in September 2013, when school officials announced their intentions to move the remains to a cemetery to make way for the football field. In November, local historians traced the land back to the Lynn family, and although the graves were unidentified and the remains were too degraded to extract DNA, strong circumstantial evidence — including land records — suggests that they belonged to ancestors of the Lynn family.
But by then, the dig couldn’t be stopped, school officials said. And the plan for the school could not be reconfigured to avoid the family grave site, schools spokesman Phil Kavits said.
Carolyn Lynn, a local genealogist and a direct family descendant, initially was upset that the remains were unearthed without thorough attempts to identify whom they might belong to and protested when officials said they would move them to another cemetery. They came to an agreement to rebury the remains in a spot not far from where they were discovered last month, Lynn said.
“I’m really quite pleased that ultimately we all came together and compromised,” Lynn said.
The remains are now in a fenced-in burial plot, marked with a plaque, that will sit not far from a school parking lot. The school system also commissioned a 197-page report by an archaeology firm that details the artifacts and human remains found at the site.
Lynn said she still wishes that the family grave had been left undisturbed.
“At the same time, if they hadn’t found the cemetery in their surveys at all, they could have just bulldozed and no one would have known it was there,” she said. “They’re still home. They’re about 925 feet further away.”

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