Fifty-four years ago on this day, four young women were brutalized in a church bombing during the heat of the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham, AL - forever polarizing and paralyzing the nation. Since the African American church was the epicenter for strategic planning, resistance and perseverance in the 60s, it also became a target for white supremacist groups like the KKK. Although the tides of racially disproportioned waters were turning with efforts from leaders like the honorable Martin Luther King Jr., there were still scare tactics and propaganda that supported a segregated and hopeless society.
Around 10:30 a.m., Sunday, September 15, 1963, 200 church members witnessed unsuspecting terror that shattered the walls and windows of 16th Baptist Church, along with the hearts of the families and members impacted by the gruesome KKK act. 14-year-old Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley and Carole Robertson and 11-year-old Denise McNair, would not survive the blast. Ten-year-old Sarah Collins lost her eye while in the basement with the other girls.
It would be over a decade before anyone would be brought to justice for the grisly murders. In 1977, Klan leader Robert E. Chambliss was brought to trial for the bombings and convicted, but died in prison in 1985. Klan member Thomas Blanton was convicted in 2001 and Bobby Frank Cherry was convicted in 2002.
Although this unspeakable horror brought a dark light to Birmingham, the city continues to use the catastrophic events of the past to build a new future for human and civil rights.