On June 24th, 1973 a popular gay bar, The Upstairs Lounge, was brimming with patrons even though it was a Sunday. It was the last day of Pride week.
The Upstairs Lounge was on the second floor of a three-story building, and was only two blocks away from the fire station.
Lambert, a 32-year-old member of the NOFD, recalled that men were struggling against the security bars on the windows and a "sickening smell hung in the air."
"These people, they were literally roasted alive. When your skin is exposed to open flames, you just melt, like candle-wax. It's horrific," recalled Terry Gilbert, a 22-year-old rookie firefighter.
The arson was the deadliest fire in New Orleans history and the largest massacre of LGBT people in the U.S. to date.
The Upstairs Lounge arson was never solved and no one was prosecuted.
The incident received only brief media attention:
Some churches refused to hold funerals for the victims while some families refused to claim bodies, knowing the patrons of the bar would be presumed to be gay.
A sidewalk memorial plaque now rests outside the building, dedicated on the fire's 30th anniversary in 2003:
Watch the trailer for Royd Anderson’s new documentary about the UpStairs Lounge:
Read more about the Upstairs Lounge Arson Here.