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August 2012

Concrete Graves

For Memorial Day, the AJC ran a handy piece on the Gilbert Memorial Cemetery, otherwise known as the Cleveland Avenue Exit Ramp Graveyard. It helped connect the dots about a site I have once visited and often pondered. 

Before it was an interstate memorial, it was a plundered cemetery for the residents of nearby Plunkett Town. (The owners of the Old South Motel & Liquor Store "got tired of cutting grass around the tombstones.") 

And before that, it was a pre-Civil War burial ground set aside by a plantation owner for slaves. Which means it was the final resting place of an unknowable number of people. (I once heard that in any hundred year-old cemetery, the headstones you see above ground represent only a fraction of the graves below.) 

Beyond the shock of turning up slave graves by the freeway, I was struck by the article's closing quote. As one interviewee reflected on the roadside headstones, "He was disappointed to learn they were made of material similar to what composed I-75." 

He thought granite would've been more appropriate, but I wonder. What material composes I-75? Asphalt concrete? That would outlast any grave. Particularly DOT-sanctioned concrete. The stubble of the aggregate, the color of smog... I can think of nothing that feels more permanent.