Vigil held for dozens who lost lives 40 years ago in Upstairs Lounge fire


Posted on June 24, 2013 at 10:28 PM

Updated Monday, Jun 24 at 10:41 PM

Dennis Woltering / Eyewitness News
Email: | Twitter: @dwoltering

NEW ORLEANS -- Forty years after the worst mass murder of gays in the nation, a memorial honored the 32 people who died in an arson that blazed for less than half an hour.

They were trapped by fire in a stairwell that's still charred with evidence of the fire.

“There was a lot of shame around this event,” said Wayne Self.

People on Monday spoke out against the way the community responded with indifference, even hostility.

“Talk show radio hosts joked about burying their remains in fruit jars,” said Holly Bradford.

Political leaders made no public statements of sympathy or condolences.

Families had trouble finding churches to bury loved ones.

“It was a slap in the face of all of the victims and their families,” said Jamie Warren.

Warren lost a grandmother and two uncles in the fire. He and others here say this memorial marks a rebirth, like a flower blooming with deeper understanding.

“We wouldn’t be here in fellowship celebrating their lives if the evolution of thought hadn’t taken place,” Warren said.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu issued a proclamation Monday honoring the victims of the Upstairs Lounge fire.

People say the victims of this fire are finally being honored, as people who lost their lives in a horrible murder.