Irish American Jack King, 71, will take part in Sunday’s service in honor of two of his ancestors whom he believes were quarantined after arriving from Ireland.
He told the New York Times : “I’m probably one of the proudest Irishmen that you could find, to know that relatives had gone through this and I have an opportunity to put them to rest. This puts a final end to their sorrows.”The New York Times report outlines how ships sailing into New York Harbor docked at Staten Island for a health inspection before facilities opened on Ellis Island in 1892.
All passengers and crew members had to be examined at the quarantine hospital on Staten Island and many of those deemed unfit for entry to the United States died there.
Mark Russo, the president of Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries, a community group that cleans and maintains forgotten grave sites on Staten Island and helped organized Sunday’s service, outlined what happened next to the paper.He said: “If they were determined to be sick, they were quarantined. And that quarantine turned into a pretty nasty place and a lot of people didn’t make it out.
“These people came over hoping to see their new land and all they saw was the inside of a hospital and in their death, they were thrown into a mass grave.
“Here I am, an Italian-English kid doing this for Irish and German immigrants. I’m doing it because we are all immigrants.”
The remains have sat in two elaborate coffins stored in a 19th-century crypt at nearby Moravian Cemetery since their excavation. A large gray coffin contains all the adult bones, and a smaller white one is used for the children’s remains.
Prayers will be said over the coffins on Sunday before they are lowered into a subterranean vault, which will then be sealed. Atop the nearly one-acre footprint of the burial ground, there is a memorial with green grass, pale pathways and rows of trees.