Well- here it is, an end to the adventure. I want to thank my fellow writers/readers who have accompanied me on this journey, and special thanks to book315lovr and kathy3meme for taking time to review. I will be publishing more; once the muse strikes she's hard to resist.
Did people change as a result of the raid into soldier's tomb? Undoubtedly. But I am describing an event that took place in 1968, and change was the catch-word of the era. It was the year of the Pueblo incident in North Korea, and the Tet offensive in Viet Nam. It was the year of the civil-rights marches in Memphis, and the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. The revolts in Paris, the Prague Spring, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia; the murder of Robert Kennedy, the yippie movement, the riots at the Democratic party convention in Chicago. I wouldn't even mention Apollo 7, the Mexico City Olympics, or the election of Richard Nixon as president of the United States, if the rest of the list of earth-shaking events occurring that year wasn't so long.
Even if it had been discovered, the raid on the monument would hardly have generated a blip on the radar screen of public awareness, or registered on the Richter scale of civic outrage. Between the war and politics, the economy and race relations, the counter-cultural movement and the Great Society, there was just too much to worry about already. Yet it did have an impact upon the lives of the participants, in terms of their behavior, and self-esteem, and the choices they subsequently made.
I was only 14 years old when the US withdrew from the war in Indochina, but some of the older kids actually enlisted, and some saw active duty. Seven were drafted, four served, two were wounded and one died. Three of the original crew went to Woodstock, and two of them, including an ex-serviceman, became die-hard hippies. Both of them, perhaps coincidentally, were the only ones who remained and raised families in the same neighborhood in which they grew up. Of all those who took part in the incident, a third came from "broken homes", and fewer than half attended college. All were married at some point in their subsequent lives, except one, who incidentally later died of complications related to HIV infection.
From what I can tell, the kids who were youngest at the time tended to have more favorable recollections of the incident, although some, like Scott, failed to remember it at all. Among the older individuals with whom I have spoken, none took pride in their participation, none expressed any interest, or even willingness to revisit the matter. In fact, when after these many years, I mentioned the subject to my brother Michael, he "...didn't want to go there."
I certainly came away with nothing more than my memories, and the sense of privilege that secret knowledge bestows. Now that I've told the story, perhaps more people will admit their knowledge, consent or compliance. Some may finally know what they formerly only suspected, while others will learn for the first time what really happened there more than forty years ago. Perhaps that alone will cause another surge of interest in the little cemetery on the hillside. It's far too late to call for an investigation, to point fingers, assign blame or assess damages.
The crypt was disturbed and items of historical, archaeological, and possibly personal and sacred significance were removed, just as similar items have been removed from tombs and archaeological sites the world over. The driving impulse to ransack a grave is the same whether it is carried out by innocent children or by professional scientists.
However I must add another relevant historical note:
Astonishingly, the desecration at this particular cemetery on the outskirts of Boston was not entirely without precedent. For in 1902, when the town had opted to widen the adjacent street, workmen "accidentally" disinterred 28 bodies from the graveyard. Embarrassed officials were forced to relocate the remains to another local burial ground, the Mt Hope Cemetery, where they were reburied with some pomp and dignity.
Little hill remains as lush and peaceful as ever, and the cemetery as a whole retains a dignity that no amount of scurrilous rumor or objective prose may disturb. Folks still walk here and children still sled and picnic here, and from time to time students from the School of Fine Arts kneel in front of the remaining headstones and rub transfers of the death's head images onto parchment paper. No sign of the excavation can be seen on the side of the monument mound, and local residents no longer tell stories of the bold children who, under cover of darkness, dug up the grave and did dastardly deeds there.
I have wanted to tell this story for some time, hoping to preserve the credibility of the tale by assembling the facts and checking them against my recollection; and intending to expose the incident directly by presenting it with minimal embellishment. Of less concern, frankly, were matters of personal or collective liability, or the limitations of relevant civic statutes. Yet I was prompted to proceed recently when an item of particular interest came to my attention. It was a posting on an Internet auction, under the heading: Authentic Revolutionary War memorabilia. I found that the exhibit included a brace of muskets, a bayonet, and other items, that to my mind at least, looked eerily familiar; all being offered for sale to the highest bidder.
Perhaps I wasn't the only one who wished to dispose of certain memories.