On Wednesday, June 12, The Arc’s Ellen Taverna attended a moving ceremony to honor the over 300 people who died while residing at either the Metropolitan State Hospital or the Fernald School for individuals with disabilities.
They were buried at Metfern Cemetery in unnamed graves, with just a number and letter to indicate whether they were Protestant or Catholic. The event was organized by the Peer Leadership Committee at the Edinburg Center and Waverly Place to pay our respects and honor the people buried there. The Mayor of Waltham, Jeannette McCarthy, spoke at the event. They read the names of the people who had died and attendees laid flowers on their graves.
Students from Gann Academy recently initiated a project to figure out the names of the individuals buried at Metfern and provide a proper burial for these individuals. Unfortunately, those individuals were most likely buried anonymously to spare families the embarrassment and shame of having a relative in a state institution.
The Arc of Massachusetts is supporting the bill, H.2779, an act relating to access to public records, which would permit access to public records in the custody of the state secretary that were created more than 75 years ago for historical and genealogical purposes. With this bill, Massachusetts is taking a small step in ending the stigma of disability, which perpetuates social inequalities and violates the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.