In 1969, when psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote her landmark work On Death and Dying, she postulated that those who have lost a loved one will experience five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Almost 50 years later, it seems like there can be a couple of extra steps in there, including “distribute viral photo” and “turn internet joke into real-life candlelight vigil.” Those latter two were recently demonstrated by a group of mourners in Montgomery, Alabama, who planned an event to help them cope with the recent loss of their beloved 24-hour Taco Bell.
In the early morning hours of Wednesday, January 17, the Taco Bell on Zelda Road in Montgomery caught fire. Despite the efforts of Montgomery Fire and Rescue, the roof partially collapsed and the building was destroyed. Authorities continue to investigate what started the blaze but, in the meantime, local residents responded by gnashing their collective teeth, shaking their fists toward the sky, and undoubtedly shouting “WHY?!” to anyone who makes eye contact with them. (“They can burn down our Taco Bell, but they can’t burn down our spirit!” one optimistic commenter wrote).
Alec Boulware responded by posting a picture of himself on his knees in front of the charred building, fists clenched as he possibly questioned the existence of any deity that would allow the destruction of a restaurant that serves Fritos-stuffed burritos.
Boulware’s photo went viral, thanks to a combination of Reddit and his boundless dedication to Living Mas, and it prompted Katie James to create a Facebook event for a “Candlelight Vigil” in an Arby’s parking lot across the street from Taco Bell’s blackened husk. At 7 PM on Sunday night, more than 100 Montgomery residents gathered to share their memories of the Taco Bell, the one all-night restaurant where no one cares that you’re so high, you gave your to-go order to a parked car. According to the Montgomery Advertiser, the vigil included a performance by a local comedian, a lot of candles, and “a box of tacos tossed out of the bed of a pickup truck.”
“Waffle House is open, but if you really want to get full, you've got to have 10 dollars. Sometimes you don't have that," comedian Ashley Nicole Portis told the Advertiser. "Sometimes they're out of waffles. Taco Bell, they're never out of tortillas."
Although the owners of the Taco Bell released a statement discouraging mourners from gathering at the restaurant’s former location, they did close their letter with some words that taste like hope… well, hope and Fire Sauce.
“We are already planning our comeback and will rebuild!,” they wrote. “We will have a true celebration upon reopening and hope that all of you that Quiero Taco Bell will Run to the Border on Zelda and LiveMas with us!!!!”
OK, that’s a lot of trademarks, but we’ll allow it. We also look forward to seeing how its return will be commemorated.