This year marks the 50th anniversary of the brutal 1963 bombing at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. Four little girls – Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, Denise McNair and Addie Mae Collins lost their lives that day at the hands of the KKK. This week, bipartisan lawmakers have announced the pursuit of the Congressional Medal of Honor for the victims.
What you may not know is that there was a lone survivor of the 16th Street bombing, Sarah Collins Rudolph. She is the younger sister of bombing victim Addie Mae Collins. Rudolph lost an eye in the attack and stood in shock, broken and bleeding after the bomb went off. She was whisked to the nearest hospital. After the attack, then twelve-year old Rudolph was told to put the experience behind her. The “fifth little girl” has not been a part of the decades of conversation surrounding the incident.
Though Rudolph is now 63 years old, she is reminded of the attacks everyday with visual scars and a startling fear of loud noises. She is still haunted by medical expenses related to September 15, 1953. Unfortunately, she and her husband have been bogged down with existing medical bills that have been denied by the Birmingham City Council. They have publicly compared her experience to the bombing of the World Trade Center and would like the same concessions or reparations offered to victims of terrorist bombings. The city has been unresponsive to their request.
This year is not only a memorable year for the bombing at 16th Street Baptist church, but it also commemorates the fire-hose incidents of the civil rights movement in Birmingham and Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”