New Orleans this week remembers the
victims of an attack on a gay bar; the tragedy has been dubbed the
“Stonewall of New Orleans.”
Forty years ago on Monday, massive
panic broke out when the Upstairs Lounge in the French Quarter was
firebombed. Investigators concluded that the fire, which trapped and
killed 32, was arson, but no one was ever charged with the crime.
A memorial mass for the victims of the
fire held at St. George's Episcopal Church led to the censure of
then-priest William Richardson.
Today, the church joined in the
mourning, holding a memorial service for the victims on Saturday.
Father Richard Easterling of St.
George's Episcopal Church said that Richardson's actions “helped in
a small way to push New Orleans a little bit forward.”
“At the time the laws and the culture
was such that gay people were really hidden,” Mark Vaughn, the vice
moderator for Metropolitan Community Church of New Orleans, told
News WWL. “So much so that a lot of the parents and families
did not even want to claim some of the victims in the fire.”
On Monday night, a second memorial
service will be held in front of the vacant building where the
nation's deadliest mass murder of gays took place 40 years earlier.
City leaders, witnesses and family members of the victims are
expected to speak at the ceremony organized by New Orleans Pride. (A
video report is embedded on this page. Visit
our video library for more videos.)
The attack is the subject of the
upcoming documentary Upstairs