Houston Cemetery Closed To Fans
The New Jersey cemetery where Whitney Houston was laid to rest Sunday was shut down to fans Monday afternoon after growing crowds began to concern cemetery officials.
Authorities said continuous groups of about half a dozen to a dozen people entered the solemn grounds of Fairview Cemetery Monday to pay their respects to the late superstar.
The number kept rising as the day went on, helped by the fact that it was a holiday and just one day after Houston was buried.
Around midday, news cameras were asked to leave, and officials started asking fans to move back from the soft ground surrounding Houston's gravesite.
By late afternoon, the crowds were "unbelievable," according to one police officer, and shortly before 3 p.m., cemetery officials asked police to close the site to fans.
Only visitors with relatives buried inside Fairview were being allowed in.
All others driving up to see Houston were being told to move on.
"I can understand because this is the first day after the burial, and I respect that," said Bridge Johnson, a fan from Irvington. "I would say to myself I should wait and come maybe a week or two later. But then I took a chance and got turned away."
Houston was buried in Westfield's Fairview Cemetery next to her father John Russell Houston, who died in 2003.
Her gravesite did not have a tombstone yet but was marked by flowers and other mementos.
One police source told NBC New York "people were jumping the fence" at the cemetery shortly after Houston was laid to rest.
Police said they expected to patrol the plot around the clock, likely for the next month.
When Fairview allowed the public in earlier Monday to view Houston's burial site, two Westfield police officers stood watch about 30 yards from the grave to ensure the public did not touch or remove anything from the gravesite.
"My heart is just beating a mile a minute just to know I'm close to her soul," said Patricia Wagner of Cranford.
A law enforcement source told NBC New York some members of the Houston family stopped by the cemetery to pay their respects, but became upset and left when they realized the grounds were open to the public.
Some other members of the public were also unhappy about the attention and heightened security Houston's burial brought to the cemetery where their own loved ones are buried.
One woman who identified herself only as Diane said she visited her father's grave every Sunday at the cemetery, but was blocked from continuing the ritual this weekend because police closed down the grounds.
Jeff Latawiec of Cranford was also shut out of the cemetery Sunday, and had to return Monday.
"There could have been ways that we could have visited our loved ones without interfering in their grieving process, which I can understand and respect 1,000 per cent," said Latawiec.
Cemetery officials told NBC New York the ground was too soft to accommodate the large crowds.
But they now face the challenge of how to handle fans who want to return again and again.
The 48-year-old Houston died February 11th in California, hours before she was to attend a pre-Grammy Awards party.
No cause of death has been determined.