AFTER nearly fifty years, a search has commenced for the final four bodies in a violent arson event that killed 32 people.
The UpStairs Lounge, a New Orleans gay bar, was set ablaze on June 24, 1973, in a mass murder that devastated the community and left families begging for closure.
Four of the victims, including a 50-year-old World War II veteran Ferris LeBlanc and three bodies burned past recognition, were buried next to each other in unmarked graves.
Now as the horror event passes its 49-year anniversary, city officials have passed a motion to provide “all reasonable assistance” and give the victims a proper burial.
“The City’s callous and deeply inadequate response… rooted in pervasive anti-gay sentiment,” worsened the suffering of the victims’ friends and families, the motion written by Councilmember J.P. Morrell states.
“Poor record-keeping and indifference continue to hamper the efforts of surviving family members to reclaim the bodies of victims and to provide them the dignity of a proper burial.”
The City Council issued a formal apology for the mistreatment of the fire which was the largest mass murder of gay people in the 20th century, CBS reported.
It was later surpassed by the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016.Author
Now with the combined efforts of the city attorney, property management director, and chief administrative officer, local officials are coming together to search for LeBlanc as well as three other victims aged 18, 23, and 28.
“The council has promised to get to the bottom of this issue and do everything they can to help us bring an end to this story,” LeBlanc’s family wrote in a statement to ABC News.
“We are cautiously optimistic for this renewed interest and are hopeful it will end in a positive resolution.”
Initial efforts to recover LeBlanc’s body for his family were complicated by Hurricane Katrina which destroyed maps and other relevant records in 2005.
Author Johnny Townsend conducted dozens of interviews for a book about the events surrounding the blaze.
During the fire, one firefighter was concerned when he couldn’t reach the blaze, Townsend wrote.
Another fireman responded with a homophobic slur and said: “Let ’em burn.”