Grotto planned at Place duBourg in memory of bus crash victims

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 19, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / May 19, 2000

LAPLACE – In about three weeks, Place DuBourg will be home to a memorial grotto to the victims of last year’s Mothers’ Day bus crash.

The idea for the memorial came from Jaimie LaBranche whose uncle, Joseph LaBranche, was injured in the crash.

“I wanted to do something to remember the victims,” said LaBranche, who owns Riverlands Horticultural Services.

LaBranche said he had visited the grotto in the town of Convent in St. JamesParish and thought that something like it would be appropriate to memorialize the crash victims.

“This will be a place to pray, sit and meditate,” said LaBranche.

Last year, several weeks after the crash, LaBranche approached Chris Palmisano administrator and director of Place Dubourg with the idea of the grotto.

Palmissano got permission from the New Orleans Archdiocese to construct the grotto and in a few weeks, the memorial will become a reality.

The grotto LaBranche designed is in the shape of a cross. Plants, flowers,shrubs and benches will line the grotto. In each arm of the cross there will bestatues, 10 in all, the largest being of the Virgin Mary at the head of the cross. In the middle will be a fountain, and there will also be a plaque with thenames of the 22 crash victims.

“When I first drew up the plans,” said LaBranche, “I didn’t realize that the shape would be a cross – it just sort of came out that way.”LaBranche has received donations of money, labor and materials from all over the community. He is personally donating all the flowers, trees andshrubs.

Randall and Andr Brown of Brown’s Concrete Works of LaPlace are donating the concrete and their labor in constructing the memorial. For the Brownbrothers, the grotto also has a special meaning, as their cousin perished in the bus crash.

“We think this is something we have to do,” said Andr Brown.

LaBranche estimates that the grotto will be finished in about three weeks.

When the memorial is finished the Archdiocese and Place Dubourg will hold a dedication ceremony.

Palmisano thinks the grotto will be good for the community and will let people finally come to grips with the tragedy.

“I think we will have a lot of visitors when it is finished,” said Palmissano.

LaBranche says that he still needs donations for the finishing touches, and if anyone is interested in helping, they should call him at 651-6423.

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