A project in West Palm Beach is set to improve railway travel throughout the area. But a local group is concerned that may come at the expense of a site dedicated to a terrible tragedy.
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Beneath the hallowed grounds at the Storm of 28 Memorial is West Palm Beach lies an ugly history.
“There were 674 bodies put in a mass grave,” says Dorothy Hazard. “Just dumped, no ceremony, no coffins.”
Hazard is chairperson for the ‘Storm of 28 Memorial Coalition’.
The powerful storm killed thousands across Florida. Most of the deaths occurred around Lake Okeechobee.
Her group worked to immortalize African American lives lost in the storm. Many of their bodies were piled up in a mass grave at Tamarind and 25th, where the memorial sits today.
Hazard says across the street, progress threatens to unearth history.
Right now the city of West Palm Beach is upgrading underground utilities.
In the coming months, a rail project is set to connect CSX and the FEC lines.
“DOT has provided an archeologist since they started working out there, and will have an archeologist out there for the next year,” says Kelley Lynn, a Senior Environmental Specialist with FDOT.
No remains have been unearthed yet, but there are protocols is place if that happens.
“The archeologist will stop construction until the remains are identified,” Lynn says.
The coalition says if remains are unearthed, they want a say in where those remains are reburied. They also hope to provide a proper burial ceremony.
Dorothy says they are keeping a close eye on the project.
“It’s very important that our ancestors are not disturbed again.”
FDOT is set to meet with the coalition on Tuesday to discuss their concerns and the plans for the project moving forward.