The Westfield cemetery where Whitney Houston was laid to rest in a private ceremony Sunday was closed to fans today amid a crush of visitors eager to catch a glimpse of the fallen superstar’s grave.
As news helicopters idled overhead, more than 100 vehicles clogged Fairview Cemetery’s narrow lanes, the traffic spilling from the entrances to the streets outside.
“Someway, somehow, word got out that the cemetery was open to the public,” Westfield police Capt. Cliff Auchter said. “And in the early afternoon, there was a tremendous increase in visitors that created tremendous traffic problems.”
Early in the day, cemetery personnel and police allowed small groups of visitors to approach the grave site, its bare earth heaped with flowers. Two officers stood watch nearby, ensuring nothing was taken.
But as morning blended into afternoon, the number of visitors grew, causing gridlock on the unmarked paths and on roads outside the cemetery.
Today’s spectacle brought some substance to the fears voiced by Westfield residents leading up to the burial. They said they worried Fairview would become a tourist attraction, transforming a place of reverence into a carnival.
Ted Simpson, a resident of neighboring Garwood, posted a hand-made sign across the street from the cemetery today, urging the public to stay away.
“Please let Whitney rest in peace,” the sign read. “If you want to show your love, buy her music.”
Houston’s family has struggled to maintain its privacy, no small task given the public interest in the death of one of the world’s top-selling female vocalists and the scores of celebrities who attended her funeral in Newark Saturday.