Tones of frustration, anger and disbelief resonate in John Moore’s voice as he explains how someone has been vandalizing roadside memorials erected by the Eagle Valley Rescue Society.
Moore, a rescue society volunteer, says that for the past 10 years, he and the society have been erecting crosses along roads and highways at scenes of fatal accidents. It’s a practice intended to pay respect to those whose lives were lost, to show that they are not forgotten.
“We attended; we held this person’s hand; they died. We put those up to say, ‘Hey, we’re sorry. We remember you,’” says Moore, who personally builds the memorials and helps place them. “Every single cross that’s up there, I can tell you the particulars of that accident. I can’t tell you the names of the people that died, but I can tell you what type of accident it was, how badly they were pinned, what type of injuries there were.”
Now, someone is tearing the crosses down, an action Moore calls a malicious act of vandalism. He says he first noticed the vandalism on Canada Day, when he discovered that two crosses standing on the west side of Bruhn Bridge had been torn down.
“They’d actually pulled them out of the ground and thrown them down the bank,” says Moore. “I had to harness up and get our ropes to go down and retrieve them and put them back. On closer inspection where the other crosses were, you could see bits and pieces where someone has gone up there and physically torn them down and broken them.”
Moore says a total of nine crosses have been torn down. He says some effort went into the vandalism, as the crosses are lag-bolted into poles. In some cases, he adds, a ladder would have been required to take the crosses down.
At first, Moore thought BC Hydro may have been taking the crosses down, but realized only some have been removed from hydro poles while others remain. He adds that hydro would have just removed the crosses, not torn them down and left them discarded at the side of the road. He also doesn’t believe it to be the Ministry of Transportation as the rescue society is aware of where the crosses can and cannot be placed.
Moore says he’ll be reporting the matter to the police, who he says have been supportive of the crosses being set up at fatal accident scenes.
“A couple of the officers who I’ve dealt with over the years have thought this is a great thing that we do; it slows people down that 30 seconds and sometimes 30 seconds is all that matters.”
As important as they are to him, Moore says the crosses are also important to the families of the deceased. On more than one occasion, families have joined society members in something of a ceremony for the placing of the crosses.
“There was one towards Salmon Arm where we put the cross up and the family made a trip across Canada to see this place where their son died. They put a little plaque up and that plaque is gone now too…,” says Moore.
Moore has since retrieved and/or rebuilt the vandalized crosses, with materials donated by Parkland Building Supplies and True Value Hardware.
Vandalism is often referred to as victimless crime, but Moore calls this “a crock.” He says he feels violated by the offences (vandalism qualifies as mischief under the Canada Criminal Code). And Moore expects the families of those the crosses honour would also be offended.
“I know the families that were involved; if they were to find out that someone has torn down their memorial to their son or daughter… they’re going to relive that pain again of losing them,” says Moore with a heavy sigh.