Note: This package first aired June 24, 2013
NEW ORLEANS -- 40 years after the worst mass murder of gays in the nation, a memorial honors 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 and behind bars on windows.
People 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, who lost a grandmother and two uncles in the fire.
Warren and others said 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,” said Warren.
Mayor Landrieu issued a proclamation honoring the victims of the Upstairs Lounge fire.
People said the victims of this fire are finally being honored as people who were who lost their lives in a horrible murder, without a sense of shame.
“We're all made of one God and we're all his children,” said Sharon Berreca.