After a local Taco Bell met an untimely end in an overnight fire Montgomery, Ala., around 100 burrito fans gathered from across the city to pay homage to the fast food icon they had lost.
The restaurant went up in a blaze January 17, leaving firefighters working in the snow to stop the flames from spreading. Nobody was injured, firefighters said.
But the loss of a beacon of cheap, late-night Mexican food left many with a hole in their stomachs...and hearts.
“Please join us in mourning as we stand together in the loss of our beloved Taco Bell,” event organizer Katie James wrote on Facebook. “May we never forget the okay customer service and long wait line for the oh so delightful baja blasts and 5 dollar quesadilla box.”
The tongue-in-cheek event, which about 200 people considered attending, was similar to a number of quirky Facebook meme events that have cropped up in the last few years, such as an event asking people to point portable fans at Hurricane Irma to blow it away in September, or to gather at a local bridge and scream at nothing. Most of these events are flash-in-the-pan memes that never really happen in real life.
This one did.
The owners of the restaurant were amused and grateful for the event after news spread of its planning - though they insisted that nobody approach the site of the restaurant, which is still an “active investigation site.”
“Taco Bell Zelda Rd thanks all of the wonderful customers who are planning a candlelight vigil for the burning of our store. We are overwhelmed by the displays of support. We are extremely thankful that no one was harmed early Wednesday morning when the store burned and that no firefighters were injured as they battled the flames in single digit temperatures,” the owners wrote in a statement, reported WFSA. “Unfortunately, because this is still an active investigation site and dangerous conditions exist, the Fire Department has instructed us to keep the site closed and no one is allowed on the premises.”
That didn’t stop the mourners, who congregated outside the building site on an adjacent Arby’s parking lot. On Sunday evening, about 100 people filed to the gathering site outside the Taco Bell building, reported WFSA. Holding up candles and carrying Taco Bell merchandise, the group commiserated about the loss of the restaurant.
“"I've had a lot of memories created at Taco Bell," Ashley Nicole Portis, a local comedian who performed at the vigil, told the Montgomery Advertiser. "I was a theater major and we had long, long rehearsal nights. It was extremely taxing, and you don't always have time to eat. You miss the cafeteria, it closes early. In Montgomery, everything else closes early."
“(I work) long hours, a lot of driving all over Montgomery, and this was a regular stop for me. I was a little bummed when I saw it burned down, cause I don’t have a nearby Taco Bell anymore,” one mourner told the AlabamaNewsNetwork.
People shared photos, videos and thoughts about the vigil on Twitter. At one point, a group of white-clad singers calling themselves the “Baja Angels” performed a choreographed dance in front of the crowd.
"It just gave people something to talk about other than all the negativity that’s going on right now," organizer Katie James told the Montgomery Advertiser.
The mourners can rest assured, however. The tortillas will return.
“We are already planning our comeback and will rebuild!” the owners said in a statement to WFSA. “We will have a true celebration upon re-opening and hope that all of you that Quiero Taco Bell will Run to the Border on Zelda and LiveMas with us!!!!”