NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Most summer internships include hands-on work, but for some teens in Brooklyn, getting a true education meant digging a little deeper.
On a hill in Green-Wood Cemetery, a group of students is digging up gravestones and restoring history.READ MORE: NYPD: 5 People Hospitalized After Police-Involved Shooting In Upper Manhattan
“If you asked me what I was going to be doing in the summer, I wouldn’t think I would be doing this,” Williamsburg High School student Lucas Gonzalez said.
Because of natural erosion, gravestones sink into the earth over time. Some parts of the stones haven’t seen the light of day for centuries.
“Some are right under the surface of the grass, and some are, like, three feet down … and then we would excavate, much like in archeology, to carefully bring these up,” said Neela Wickremesinghe, director of restoration for Green-Wood Cemetery. “When you find a complete headstone after it was been in the ground probably longer than it was up, it’s really exciting.”
“When you dig it up, it’s a pretty nice feeling. You’re the first one to actually see it, like, the past 200 years,” Lucas said.
For the past six weeks, they’ve used a winch and pulley system to lift and reset 120 gravestones.READ MORE: 'Moulin Rouge! The Musical' Wins Big As Broadway Celebrates The 74th Annual Tony Awards
“Starting from the beginning all the way to back there, this is all us. We’ve done all of this whole thing,” Lucas said. “It feels like we’ve achieved the impossible.”
“Does it give you a little bit more perspective?” CBS2’s Steve Overmyer asked Williamsburg High School student Damian Dziegielewski.
“It definitely does. It opens my eyes. Like, these marble stones, they’re all of children who passed very young lives,” Damian said. “Marble is actually a symbol of purity, and the reason why they used marble for these ones are that children are considered pure.”
“Having hard conversations of, ‘Wait, what was infant mortality like in the 1850s? What was it like to maybe die during childbirth?’ These are the kind of questions that maybe you wouldn’t get answered in the classroom, but doing this kind of work, it becomes very real,” Wickremesinghe said.
High school students who spent their summer treating our history with reverence and restoring memories.
“In my opinion, I think I’m, like, living through history in their shoes,” Lucas said. “If you were buried, you would want somebody to take care of your stone as well.”MORE NEWS: Police Seize 7 Vans Allegedly Used As Airbnb Rentals In Manhattan
After resetting the stones, the students would clean each piece and put flowers on every grave.