BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – This Sunday the world remembers four little girls killed exactly fifty years ago in Birmingham.
High profile religious and political leaders gathered in Birmingham to commemorate the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church on September 15th, 1963.
Outside the steps of the 16th Street Baptist Church the ringing of a bell marked 10:22 a.m. – the exact time that a bomb went off near a room where children were preparing for Sunday school 50 years ago. Killed in that blast were 14 year olds Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, and 11 year old Denise McNair. Sarah Collins Rudolph was with them. She lost a sister, three friends, and her vision that day.
“I remember how Denise came out of the restroom and how she asked my sister Addie to tie the sash up on her dress and when Addie reached out to tie the sash, the bomb went off. I heard this loud sound boom! Then debris came coming in- came in and blinded me,” said Sarah Collins Rudolph. “When I went to the hospital I had glass all in my eyes and in my chest, just really and I lost my right eye on that day and injured my left eye badly because you know when the doctor had operated on me he was asking me what do I see and I told him that I see a little light out of my left eye, but my right eye…I blinded instantly in my right eye.”
Although it was hard for her to return to the place where her life changed forever Collins Rudolph wouldn’t have missed the ceremony on the 50th anniversary of that tragic day.
“It brings back a lot of memories and it… and I just see where this city has come a long way. Because we needed to have peace in this city, but I just hate to see that these girls had to die, just to get peace,” said Collins Rudolph. “It was important to be here today because you know my sister was killed and all of the other girls I knew very well. And I just had to, had to come because I loved those girls and it was very important that I come to really represent them.”
To mark the pivotal moment Reverend Arthur Price taught from the Sunday school lesson that the victims were supposed to hear that morning. It taught about love that forgives in the face of evil.
Elder Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., opened the morning with prayer.
“We know that 50 years ago there was an explosion in this place that took the lives of innocent young girls, but we thank you father for the tremendous progress that we have made in 50 years that we can sit in the safety confines of this sanctuary being protected by the City of Birmingham when 50 years ago the city turned its eyes and its ears away from us,” said King.