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Melinda Hunt Follows NYC’s Lonely Dead To Hart Island

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Hart Island - Bronx, NY (credit: Ian Ference / Hart Island Project)

Hart Island – Bronx, NY (credit: Ian Ference / Hart Island Project)

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) - When someone in New York City dies, alone, he or she is buried on Hart Island, off of the Bronx coast.

WCBS 880′s Alex Silverman On The Story

For years, Melinda Hunt had been documenting New York City’s forgotten burial ground in photographs and artwork.

“Looking to photograph a burial process, something in New York City that was unchanged for a hundred years,” she said.

That was 20 years ago.

“I felt that there was a kind of a erasure of these lives,” she said.

Then a man named Sean Sheridan got in touch.

“His father died on the subways in Brooklyn,” she told WCBS 880 reporter Alex Silverman.

Sean wanted to know where and how his father had been buried, but it wasn’t easy.

“When the D.A. wanted to get a body back, they could find the body. When a family member did, they were having a difficult time,” Melinda said.

So, Hunt helped slice through the bureaucracy, not just for Sean, but for many others, and then decided to create a database at the Hart Island Project.

Four years later, it has more than 58,000 names.

“As the database became more filled out, people were able to search on their own,” she said.

It’s providing closure for families that, in some cases, no one even tried to find.

“When that happens and they’ve been looking for a long time, it just feels like the keys to the door. Everything’s clear,” she said.

“It’s more gratifying in a way to try and make the system work better than to just complain about it,” she said.

She just found out last week that she is even getting some state funding for her project.

To check out the project, visit it HERE.

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