CHICAGO (CBS) — Last week, the owners of Oak Woods Cemetery abruptly shut the gates and kept mourners out. Those gates reopened Friday, but many families still have questions.
It began as another day of anxiety for families with loved ones at Oak Woods Cemetery. Bernard Hatch was turned away ten straight days, trying to visit his mother, sister and brother.
“I have loved ones that are in there. We want to make sure that the water is not covering the graves, our loved ones are submerged in the graves, or as far as in the water,” Hatch said.
Managers blamed floodwaters for closing the 184-acre cemetery, making some areas unsafe. But, when CBS 2’s drone flew over the grounds Monday, most roads appeared to be dry.
Still, pumps were removing water Friday with vacuum trucks also used to try to drain the cemetery.
“They were bringing them out and dumping the water on that side of the cemetery, close to the gate, near the sewers,” Hatch said.
Funeral directors had no memory of the cemetery ever being shut down and neither did Oak Woods’ visitors.
“I’ve never found it closed for any reason,” Destiny Williams said.
The state agency that regulates cemeteries said, “there is some pipe damage the cemetery is working with the City of Chicago to address.”
“People have been pulling up all day with flowers, this being Mother’s Day weekend, and people have been very upset,” Williams said.
But by mid-afternoon, a funeral procession was allowed to enter with Oak Woods management declaring the cemetery reopened in time for Mother’s Day.
Oak Wood management says it closed the grounds due to safety concerns, but disgruntled families are still wondering why they had to close the entire cemetery, not just the flooded part. Others say the cemetery did a poor job letting the public know about the shutdown.