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East Bay Community Bands Together To Protect, Maintain 'Lafayette Crosses'

LAFAYETTE (KPIX) - For 13 years, a hillside in Lafayette has served as a memorial to the high cost of war. Now, groups are banding together to protect and maintain the 'Crosses of Lafayette.'

In many ways, the Lafayette Crosses are an accidental memorial. In 2006, a handful of peace activists began putting up crosses on the hillside across from Lafayette BART as a protest against the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lynn MacMichael was one of them.

"I just came down the block with a hammer and a shovel and we started digging," said MacMichael.

Over the years, as casualties multiplied so did the crosses. At first it split the town, with many feeling the display was disrespectful to the military but then, slowly, the feeling changed. People began adding names and photos of lost loved ones to the crosses, and what started as a protest became a place of honor.

"I know there was a lot of controversy when it began but I think people have realized over time how important and significant it is," said Lafayette resident Howard Janssen.

The original land owners have passed on and there's talk the family may sell the property. But in the meantime, someone has to chop the weeds and repair the crosses. So, a diverse group of organizations, from peace activists to veterans groups, to Blue and Gold Star Moms, have come together to create a new non-profit called the "Lafayette Hillside Memorial" to care for the site.

"And also to collaborate together to figure out what is the vision for the future and what does the future look like?" said Board member Gina Dawson.

Of course, the family has every right to sell the land, but that decision will not be easy or popular. The hillside has become a final resting place, not of human remains, but of their memories.

"I think it's a way to honor people," said MacMichael, "and calling it a graveyard is a little too narrow. I think it's broader than that."

While it cannot control what happens to the property, the group says it is committed to maintaining the memorial for however long it may be there.

Organizers say they will begin soliciting contributions in about a month to pay for upkeep of the memorial and the cost of events held at the site.

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