Relatives: Fort Meade cemetery sweep "very disrespectful"

Image 1 of 4

Grief and raw emotion spilled over into outrage at the Fort Meade cemetery on Tuesday as families and friends dug through plastic bins, trying to find the items that had been used to honor the memory of loved ones.

"Very heartbreaking to get the news that your son's stuff has been thrown like this," said Belinda Thomas, who buried her 9-year-old son at the cemetery.

Over the past few days, the city of Fort Meade implemented a new ordinance that says loose objects are no longer allowed at gravesites at the cemetery there.

Mayor Jim Crew says the ordinance had been in the works for a few months. He says city commissioners approved the new ordinance because crews had a difficult time maintaining the grounds with growing displays. He said he also heard complaints about the cemetery.

"Tackiness," Crew said. "Not necessarily tackiness, but overabundance of issues, of items being placed out."

He says notices about the rule change were placed in the newspaper and power bills. Many families who were at the cemetery on Tuesday said they knew nothing about it.

"When you go out there two to three times a week and nobody tells you something -- what do you expect?" Thomas said, clutching her son's toys.

Kimberly Booz says she could not find a windmill that was at her 16-month-old son's grave.

"It's very damned disrespectful," she said as she looked at a collection of two dozen plastic bins holding items like flowers, angels, and crosses. "It's just so disgusting to our city,"

Vanessa Oberski, whose father died in December, says she did receive a notice about the rule change -- but thought fixed objects were okay.

"We had a small arrangement secured down to the ground until we received the headstone to honor him," Oberski said.

She says that arrangement was tossed, as well.

"I do believe that Fort Meade cemetery needed to be cleaned," she said. "But there are respectful ways to do that. I don't believe it was handled correctly."

Crew says anyone who has been affected by the implementation of the new rule should consider contacting him or speaking at the next city commission meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, April 12 at 7 p.m.