There may be eight million stories in the Naked City, but there are countless stories of loss represented in the city’s graveyards. In Mount Lebanon Cemetery in Queens, the monument to Celia Sanders and her five children embodies one example of intense personal tragedy. Striking in its size and simplicity, the memorial is in the form of six blocks in descending height that represent the mother and her children, aged four to fifteen, who perished together in a tenement building fire in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1932. Abraham Sanders, the father, and his sole surviving daughter were joined by 3,000 mourners at the family’s funeral.
The Sanders family is among over 88,000 interments at Mount Lebanon, a Jewish cemetery founded in 1915 on 85 acres of dormant land purchased from Cypress Hills Cemetery. Located south of Myrtle Avenue in Glendale, it is bordered by Cypress Hills and Jackie Robinson Parkway, and is one of a number of cemeteries along the Queens-Brooklyn border. Over 240 societies and synagogues have areas in the cemetery, and thousands more plots are owned by individual families.
Sources: “Mother Dies in Fire with Five Children,” New York Times, April 14, 1932; “Six of Family Buried,” New York Times, April 16, 1932; “Cemeteries of Greater Ridgewood and Vicinity (R. Eisen, Greater Ridgewood Historical Society Lecture, Aug. 1988); A Living Lens: Photographs of Jewish Life from the Pages of the Forward (Newhouse 2007), 129; Mount Lebanon Cemetery; NYCityMap.