TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (WMBB)–Following the storm, Tyndall’s 325th Civil Engineer Squadron was hard at work cleaning out the historical cemeteries located on the base.
“The history behind the cemetery is important to the local community and therefore is important to the air force,” said Ilaria Harrach, the Cultural Resources Project Manager.
The history of the land goes back to the 1800’s.
On Friday, base officials toured the Massalina Cemetery. The land it is located on was settled by the Massalina family before they had to hand it over to Tyndall in 1941.
“To know that they actually take the time to come out and take care of the cemetery…that to me is surprising but I’m grateful that they took the time to do it,” said Barabara Patterson, Tyndall Black Heritage Committee Advisor.
Relatives said they also feeling grateful as they go to see the cemetery for the first time “It’s emotional, it’s also nostalgic but I also feel proud to be apart of the legacy and the heritage that’s here at Red Fish Point,” said Lynva Masslieno, a descendent of the Massalina family.
Tyndall’s Cultural Resources Program has worked hard to preserve the contributions that African Americans made in the early days of Bay County’s history.
“This cemetery offers a unique opportunity but also a big challenge,” said Robert Cvornyek, a history professor at FSU Panama City.
With the base only able to identify a small handful of graves, Cvnornyek is determined to uncover the lands entire history.
“One way we can make sure to tell that powerful story and commemorate those sacrifices is to make sure that the stories are never forgotten,” Cvnornyek said.
Base officials say they will continue to do all that they can to preserve the cemeteries while also learning more about the people who first called the land home.