HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Nanette Napoleon, historian and cemetery expert, guided Kawaiahao Church members and volunteers as they righted the heavy headstones toppled some time early Wednesday morning.
“Don’t grab that top. Look it’s wiggling,” said Napoleon nervously to the volunteers.
The church says 27 headstones were toppled while others were damaged from a previous incident.
“I was heart broken, totally heart broken to see so many,” said Napoleon.
Some were too heavy or fragile to move.
"You gotta make sure you get the right people to supervise the work otherwise you could cause further damage," she advised.
Church members tried to figure out who would do such a cruel act.
“Obviously if it’s more than one person, it’s a planned premeditated event,” said Montie Hess, who’s on the board of trustees for Kawaiahao Church, to Napoleon who nodded with agreement.
He wondered how vandals could topple so many lava rock, granite and marble stones. Hess got on the ground to try to figure it out.
"You sit down and you put your feet, butt on the ground and you kick it over like that," said Hess.
As the church tries to comfort the families and honor loved ones with a lei at each grave marker, others came to kokua. It's believed 1,500 people are buried at the church cemetery from the 1800's
“Upon hearing this and walking through this every Sunday, I thought it was my responsibility and it’s pono to come and see whatever help I can do,” said church member Billy Burgess.
Napoleon says in her career she’s seen thousands of desecrated graves.
“It’s a growing problem in our community for all cemeteries. They’re really vulnerable,” said Napoleon.
Brickwood Galuteria, chair of the Kawaiahao Church board of trustees, says the church is now looking into its insurance policies, but is assuring the families that it will pay for the damage.