In New Orleans on a warm Sunday afternoon in June 24, 1973 an afternoon arson attack on a gay bar called the Upstairs Lounge resulted in the deaths of 32 people. The UpStairs Lounge fire is the deadliest fire in New Orleans history and now the second largest mass murder of LGBT people ever in the United States after the Florida Pulse Massacre.
News coverage at that time, both print and television, made every effort to omit the fact that the fire had anything to do with homosexuals in the community, even though a gay bar and members of a gay church congregation had been involved. The stories that appeared included quotes from local citizens that can only be described as ignorant, such as a cab driver who said “I hoped the fire burned their dresses off,” and one woman who opined that “the Lord … cooked them.” Local talk radio hosts were making jokes such as, “What do they bury the ashes of queers in?” The answer: “Fruit jars.”
Of the 32 victims four of the bodies were buried by authorities in an unmarked grave in the local “potter’s field”. Sadly, a record of exactly where those bodies were buried was lost during the Hurricane Katrina tragedy of 2005. Now, officials in the city have announced that they plan to renew efforts to find the victims in the unmarked grave.
Last Thursday, NOLA city council passed a motion promising to renew efforts to find the lost bodies. Doing so opens up the possibility of carrying out DNA testing to identify those not previously named. It also means they can receive a proper burial after all these decades..
“The City’s callous and deeply inadequate response … rooted in pervasive anti-gay sentiment” made suffering worse for victims´ families and friends” states the motion written by Councilmember Jean-Paul “JP” Morrell.
The motion says the city has a moral obligation to do all it can to aid “the recovery and dignified interment of the victims of the UpStairs Lounge massacre.”
You can rad more about the UpStairs Lounge Inferno by CLICKING HERE.