People in the French Quarter are remembering a deadly fire, intentionally set.
Thirty two people perished in the arson fire that ripped through the Upstairs Lounge on June 24th, 1973.
“Respecting their lives,” says Toby Lefort. “And putting them to rest, such as should have been done forty years ago.”
“There are so many stories to be proud of from this fire,” says the Wayne Self, who wrote a musical about the fire called Upstairs.
Lefort says whoever set the fire forty years ago on the only door leading to the gay bar was never brought to justice, It was totally brushed under the cover. Nobody said let’s investigate it. Lets get to the bottom of it. You know why? Because it was a gay issue.”
A backdraft spread flames quickly trapping patrons on the second floor. Bars on the windows stopped victims from escape, Politicians and the churches sort of just shied away from this whole thing. There was sort of a conspiracy of silence,” says Self.
Below where the Upstairs Lounge once was, near a plaque acknowledging the tragedy, is a celebration of pride, Self says, past and present, “ If it happened today certainly it would be a different type of response.”
Lefort says the remembrance is also a celebration how far gay rights have advanced since the Upstairs fire forty years ago, “I am proud that I can actually be who I am in the streets of anywhere I go because these people who died actually paved the way for me.”