NY's Forbidden Island: A Million in Mass Graves


In November, a small group of women who threatened to bring a complaint were given permission to visit specific grave sites. Joseph became the first to go on March 14. Once there, she broke down in tears.

"I can't say I found closure. When you lose a child, there really is never closure. There is a piece of you that is gone," she said. "I did find solace in that there was water surrounding it and there was a lovely view."

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She was even allowed to take a photograph.

Laurie Grant, a 61-year-old doctor who gave birth to a still-born daughter in 1993, hopes to be the next. But on March 28, she waited in vain in the rain on the jetty. Due to unwillingness or miscommunication, those who were supposed to ferry her across the water left before she even arrived.

- Public cemetery closed to public -

Over the years, Hunt said she has lost track of all the families she has tried to help, though estimates the number is at least 500. Most were Americans, but there have been others from France, the Netherlands and Poland, and one Irish woman looking for a grandfather.

The Hart Island Project has so far managed to list more than 60,000 burials in the database. A bill has been introduced to the city council seeking to transfer the island to the parks administration, but has not been taken up yet.

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Joseph dreams of being able to return as often as she wants to what she calls "a public cemetery that the public is not allowed to visit."

She also dreams of flowers and a bench to honor her baby. "If I can put a marker on a bench, I'll be happy," she said.

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