Earlier this week I attended a funeral procession for Wendy Byrne, a longtime New Orleans resident and French Quarter bartender (I believe she lived in the Quarter also) who was tragically shot on 17 January by three teenage thugs (who have since been turned in by their mothers and turned over to criminal court to be tried as adults).

I didn’t know nor never met Wendy, but the day before her funeral procession I was drinking with mates at the Rawhide and judging by the passion of the bartender she clearly had an important and outstanding presence in the community. Tragic, but an opportunity to experience a second line which is really integral to the cultural foundation that makes up New Orleans life (and by extension, death).

(Read some official news about Wendy Byrne here and here)


Gathering outside of a pub on North Rampart on the boundary of the French Quarter, people spilling into the streets with drinks in hand to assist with the mourning. Eventually the carriage did a loop, proceeded down North Rampart before turning into the Quarter proper, stopping traffic for blocks on end.

As the carriage proceeds, those immediately behind the carriage are known as the first line, and include family and friends, those closest to the deceased. The jazz band follows behind them and marches while playing, the band typically consisting of various drums, tambourines, trombones, tuba, saxophones, etc.

The second line consist of those that follow behind the band which include those showing solidarity and quite often those who join in attracted to the music like a moth to a flame. Actually, people came up to me after the march had stopped and the band played its last number and asked me what was the purpose of the parade that they just participated in, proving the effect of music on the spirit so typical to New Orleans. It’s pretty powerful stuff.

And incredible to consider a city where a homicide could pull this many people together, many of them strangers to each other, and stop traffic for blocks and blocks on end, effectively shutting down an area of the city, yes to mourn but also to celebrate the passing of one of its residents. Death is inevitable, and while the situation is very tragic and sad, it’s also beautiful that Wendy’s spirit was able to organize this activity and fill the air with such joy.


The spot where Wendy lost her life. Cheers to Wendy!