In My Backyard 

Just get Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the ground and forget about it. But now what?

click to enlarge YURI GRIPAS/REUTERS
  • Yuri Gripas/Reuters

I am a resident of Doswell and there is a little cemetery near here with a prominent grave.

The stone says her name was Temperance Harris. She was born in 1678 and died in 1716, making this gravesite — located adjacent to Kings Dominion property just off state Route 30 — the oldest in Hanover County and one of the oldest in Virginia outside of Williamsburg.

I also know of another cemetery nearby, just off Route 30, called Al-Barzakh. Technically, it isn't in Doswell, or even in Hanover. It's located closer to Frog Level, which had a brush with fame in 1982 when a scene from the lost Richmond movie "Rock 'n' Roll Hotel" was filmed there.

Al-Barzakh now has a notable grave as well — one containing the body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the suspected Boston Marathon bomber. He's buried just down the road from Temperance Harris.

Tsarnaev's body was arranged to be placed there by Richmond resident Martha Mullen, who in a Starbucks-fueled revelation told media outlets that she was motivated by her own faith, the support of her pastor and an interfaith coalition in her decision to have the suspected terrorist's body transported to the rural Virginia location for burial.

"Nobody is without sin," she said to the Huffington Post. "Certainly this was a horrific act, but he's dead and what happened is between him and God. We just need to bury his body and move forward. People were making an issue and detracting from the healing that needed to take place."

"The body's buried," Tsarnaev's uncle Ruslan Tsarni told the Huffington Post. "That's it."

Just get him in the ground and forget about it. But now what? Mullen's decision may have been heartfelt and motivated by her Christian compassion, but the long-term technical logistics of her act may be problematic. Caroline County Sheriff Tony Lippa, unaccustomed to having radical terrorists buried in his county, expressed legitimate concern that the gravesite could become not only a target for vandals but also a shrine for Tsarnaev sympathizers. That may have unpleasant consequences among the locals and with the Islamic Center of Virginia, whose members are angry that they weren't consulted about the burial.

A lot of people — from Richmond to other continents — have strong opinions on how we residents in Doswell, Hanover and Caroline should be reacting to the sudden introduction of such a notorious figure in our midst. "He's dead!! Get over yourselves and let the stupid body stay where it is!" chides a London resident in the UK Daily Mail. "He's not a zombie or something," writes a San Francisco reader of the Huffington Post. "And as for the town that is complaining," fumes a reader from Aurora, Ill., which is a safe 825 miles from Tsarnaev's grave, "that 'The county was not aware of this, and most importantly, the county did not provide any permission for this to happen.' — tell me what law says that you need permission from the county for ANYONE'S burial? Yeah … didn't think so."

Big, cheap talk from those who don't have to live in the shadow of the notoriety this burial has generated. These people, and even Mullen, take a "not in my backyard" attitude with this choice of burial sites and with their subsequent admonitions for us to just deal with it. Mullen, in her compassion, was willing to give Tsarnaev a decent burial as long as it wasn't too close to her own house, and her deliberate pick of a remote cemetery far from approximately 20 or so Richmond cemeteries effectively puts the suspected terrorist out of sight and out of mind. She can sit back in her Richmond home, content that she did the right thing with no fear that Muslim radicals could come along a year from now and propose tearing down her house to build a mosque in honor of a martyr. Better to let Doswell and Caroline deal with that potential problem.

As a Doswell resident, and as a Christian, I'm conflicted by the interment here. While I agree that proper disposal of the body is necessary for the disposition of the soul, I can't help but see the face of Martin Richard, an 8-year-old grinning into the camera before he was killed, and his sister, Jane, who lost a leg in the blast. I think of Krystal Campbell, the 29-year-old restaurant manager who was killed waiting for a friend's boyfriend to cross the finish line, and Lu Lingzi, the Chinese graduate student who had only one course left to graduate from Boston University.

I remember Patrick and Jessica Downes, newlyweds who lost their left legs, and Aaron Hern, a badly injured 11-year-old boy. I recall the unforgettable image of Jeff Bauman rushed away from the scene in a wheelchair, both his legs gone below the knees, his face frozen in shock. And all of a sudden I regret to admit that I stopped giving a rat's ass about Tamerlan Tsarnaev's soul, trusting that God knows what to do with such a person. Yet I'm still annoyed that the burial was brokered by someone who doesn't even live here.

Perhaps if Mullen wanted to do the right thing, she should have had Tsarnaev buried in her own backyard, instead of here in mine — and let Temperance Harris go back to being Doswell's most prominent burial. S

Doswell resident Dale Brumfield is an author and Virginia Commonwealth University graduate student.

Opinions expressed on the Back Page are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.


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