As the city goes through the process of disinterring bodies, deep feelings stir.
There is only one thing standing between the City of Chicago and completion of runway 10-center at O’Hare: St. Johannes cemetery.
The city won a protracted legal battle to disinter the bodies in the cemetery, and move them to other locations. But not everyone is happy with the process. It should be done in a fashion that assures us that the remains of our loved ones have been finally moved, and will not just be part of concrete for a new runway,” says Chicagoan Bob Sell. “These are not new concerns."
Sell counts five generations of relatives at St. Johannes, dating back to 1859. It was his family which fought the move, on religious grounds, in court. And he says those same beliefs lead to his current concerns about the manner in which the bodies are being moved.
Scores of the burials at St. Johannes were from an earlier era, where vaults were not used.
In many cases, the coffins and human remains have become intermingled with the soil around them. They’re talking about treating these burial sites as if they’re an archeological project,” Sell says.
“They’re intending as we understand it, to use an archeologist, who would simply look for particular bone fragments that can be identified.”
Chicago officials say they employ a standard to determine who has the appropriate say for the eventual disposition of every grave.
“There is a genealogical standard of proof that we follow,” Andolino says. St. Johannes became a final resting place for scores of families, long before the Wright Brothers were even born. Their creation forced its relocation. It has been a rocky road which has dragged through the courts for years, and many remain uncomfortable, even now. We don’t look at them as simply bones in the ground,” Sell says. “We look at them as family. We look at them as brothers and sisters in faith.