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For historic graves, new life


Cemetery: Closed for a generation, the final resting place of Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers unlocks its gates to visitors.

April 26, 2003|By Marego Athans | Marego Athans,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

Perched at one end of Physick's tomb, Conner, 52, recalled sitting in the same spot as a second-grader on a class trip to the cemetery. Coincidentally, he said, he had picked that place to plunk down and eat his lunch, declaring to classmates, "my great-great-great-grandfather is buried around here somewhere."

"I turned around," he said, pointing at the inscription on the other end of the tomb, "and there it was." The kids could hardly believe it.

The restoration of the cemetery represents the belief that "this is hallowed ground," said the Rev. Tim Safford, rector of the church, which was attended by John Adams, Betsy Ross and George Washington.

Such burial grounds not only help visitors understand history through both famous and ordinary people, but they bring hope, he said.

"They give you hope that you can endure, that you can make it through wars and epidemics," he said. He called the cemetery "an active burial site," with potential space for about 60 more graves.

The trust hopes for 200,000 visitors a year, beginning today with the official unlocking of the burial ground gate, historic re-enactments and tours.

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