When Hurricane Matthew pounded eastern North Carolina with heavy rain nearly two years ago, the storm displaced both the living and the dead.
The heavy flooding caused by the storm disturbed 36 gravesites in the city owned Elmwood Cemetery, a place of burial for African-Americans and established in 1874.
Heavy rain caused the Neuse River to reach 29 feet, which caused low-lying areas to flood. Elmwood is located just a half-mile from the river.
Tim Irving, who serves as the superintendent of the cemetery, said the coffins that were displaced during the storm have been put in new coffins and vaults.
"With the help of the state medical examiner and local funeral homes, we have been able to get DNA samples of the 18 bodies that were disinterred," Irving said. "Those bodies have been placed in new coffins and new vaults."
Vaults have now been numbered, based on the DNA samples, and have been re-interred into separate individual graves on what Irving said he hopes will be the new part of the cemetery.
Irving is now seeking the help of family members whose loved ones are buried at Elmwood Cemetery. Family members will need to provide DNA samples that will then be matched with the bodies that were disinterred.
Once the DNA matches, the body will then be placed back into the original burial plot. Irving said he wants to dispel the rumor that bodies have been buried in a mass grave site.
The coffins that floated from their vaults were buried between 1983 and 1997. At the time, it was economical to place vaults just below the earth's surface. The lids of the vaults were buried level with the ground. After Hurricane Floyd in 1999, the state banned such burials.
Two funeral homes, which handled the arrangements of some of the graves that were disturbed, have since gone out of business, which has made it difficult to locate family members.
The city of Goldsboro plans to erect a marker explaining what happened, along with naming those who were not returned to their original grave.
Signs are posted throughout the cemetery asking visitors to call if they notice their loved one's grave has been disturbed. Irving said he understands that the process can be emotional for people but remains hopeful that things will be resolved soon. Officials say that it is not known if all the remains can be located back to their original resting place.
To date, the members of seven families have provided DNA samples, in an effort to confirm the identity of bodies that were displaced during Hurricane Matthew. The DNA samples were sent two weeks ago for evaluation.
Family members of the following people are asked to contact Irving to provide DNA samples to help confirm the identity of others who were displaced during the storm:
Esther Simmons, died 1980
James Moses, died May 26, 1985
Donnelly Perryman, died March 31, 1991
Rosa E. Becton, died Sept. 10, 1991
Carrie Flowers, died Nov. 22, 1991
Mattie Daniels, died March 25, 1993
Alice Phillips, died Feb. 3, 1995
George Atkinson, died July 16, 1995
Anyone with information or who knows the name of family members is asked to contact Irving at 919-735-1065.