SALEM — Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear: Friday, May 3.
Construction crews are working hard at the former St. Joseph Church site, digging the foundation for a four-story apartment building that will be erected where the old church parking lot used to be.
The construction bosses were told a year ago that a giant statue of St. Joseph, believed to weigh 6 tons and stand taller than 12 feet, may be under the parking lot, but they have pretty much given up hope of finding anything as they dig the final footing for the building.
Over the months, out of the goodness of their hearts, they actually dug individual holes where parishioners said the statue rested, only to come up empty each time. They also used radar in their search, to no avail.
But on this day, with the statue the furthest thing from their minds, an excavator operator from Fall River uncovers what appears to be ledge. Or could it be a giant boulder? He scoops under it with his excavator and — voila! — up pops a huge, white statue in the bucket of his purring machine.
“I dug up Jesus,” the man yells. “I dug up Jesus.”
A construction boss, who is across the yard, starts running toward the excavator, fearful the statue will be dropped or tossed into a waiting dump truck. He yells for the man to “stop!.”
He also informs the startled heavy-equipment operator that the statue is not of Jesus, but St. Joseph.
From across a large construction site, all eyes turn toward the white statue cradled in the “arms” of an excavator, a statue that had been buried and unseen for more than 60 years.
Four days later, as we now know, the statue was reburied on site following a ceremony with prayers and brief remarks.