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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

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Capturing culture in remembrance of loved ones

Capturing culture in remembrance of loved ones

November 1st, for many Christians, is a celebration of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day which stems from the belief that a spiritual bond exist and connects those in heaven with the living. As such, all individuals, famous or obscure, are remembered and honored. Our cemeteries throughout Lafourche Parish are visited and become adorned with flowers and symbols as a way to bring about comfort.

Did you know that Lafourche Parish cemeteries are considered “at-risk” due to environmental factors? The very history that tells our story is being threatened.

In order to capture our culture for future generations, the Lafourche Parish Departments of Emergency Preparedness, Planning and Information Technology have partnered with local fire departments to begin the process of building a virtual database that will serve as a way to scroll through individual cemeteries to search for names.

This pilot virtual documentary is ongoing and is continuously being updated.

Assistant Manager of Emergency Preparedness, Eric Benoit, who has lead this effort for the Parish, has consulted with Jessica H. Schexnayder, coastal researcher and author, for guidance.

She notes, “The significance of documenting at-risk cemeteries in Louisiana cannot be overstated. Cemeteries provide a source of comfort and remembrance for the living and are an invaluable resource for capturing the state’s cultural history – names on headstones detail the region’s coastal immigration patterns and reflect a diverse population of ethnicities from throughout the world.

“Yet, hurricanes, storm surge, subsidence, flooding, and rapid erosion of the land create a dim future for these sites. As the land erodes and is inundated, the state loses its cultural fabric.

“When natural disasters strike, cemeteries often bear damage, especially those in coastal parishes and near rivers. Hurricanes Rita (2005); Ike (2008); and Isaac (2012) and the August flood of 2016 all disrupted and uprooted graves.

“Global Positioning Site location (GPS) is a valuable advance-storm tool for post-storm recovery. A digital record of the site can be created by marking cemetery perimeters and geolocating individual graves. These coordinates can be used to determine where a coffin should be returned to after a storm. It’s also significant in terms of historical preservation of Louisiana’s coastal record – the coordinates will always be there, even when the land is eroded or inundated by the Gulf of Mexico.”