‘Fifth girl’ in 1963 KKK church bombing seeks apology, restitution

A church deacon pulled Sarah Collins Rudolph out of the wreckage when she was 12

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Sarah Collins Rudolph, a survivor of the church bombing that killed four Black girls 57 years ago in Birmingham, Alabama has never received an apology or any compensation for the lifelong trauma she suffered from the attack, her lawyers said on Wednesday.

Sara Collins Rudolph and her husband George Carlson Rudolph attend a ceremony to posthumously award the Congressional Gold Medal to her sister Addie Mae Collins and the three other little girls who were killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing at the U.S. Capitol September 10, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

She blames then Gov. George Wallace‘s violent rhetoric for the racial hatred that led to the bombing.

After years of contacting local and state officials, seeking some form of restitution for the injuries and decades of trauma she endured, Rudolph’s lawyers wrote a letter to Gov. Kay Ivy of Alabama, calling on the state to issue a formal apology to Rudolph and monetary compensation to “right the wrongs that its past leaders encouraged and incited.”

Read More: Thomas Blanton, 1963 KKK bomber of 16th St Baptist Church in Birmingham, dies

The letter continued, “The actions of the bombers, affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan and inspired and motivated by then-Governor Wallace’s racist rhetoric, left Ms. Rudolph hospitalized for months and scarred, both physically and mentally, to this day.”

The Washington Post reported that Gina Maiola, spokeswoman for the Alabama governor, wrote in an email that the office received the letter and was reviewing it.

Rudolph was 12 years old at the time of the terrorist attack on the 16th Street Baptist Church that took the lives of her sister, Addie Mae Collins, 14, Carol McNair, 11, Carole Robertson, 14, and Cynthia Wesley, 14.

The girls were attending the church’s annual Youth Day event and were changing into their choir robes in the church’s basement when at least 15 sticks of dynamite planted by four Klansmen exploded under the steps of the church, near the basement.

A church deacon pulled Sarah out of the wreckage, but she was left blind in her right eye, and she still has remnants from the blast lodged inside her body, along with a piece of glass in her left eye that her doctor fears will lead to total blindness if he attempts to remove it.

Read More: ‘4 Little Girls’ remembered: The price of freedom after 50 years

Being blind in her right eye destroyed her dream of becoming a nurse. Being introverted and disabled, Rudolph could only work odd jobs, including foundry work and housekeeping.

Those responsible for the bombing didn’t face justice until 1977 when a jury convicted KKK member, Robert Chambliss. It wasn’t until 2001 and 2002 that Thomas Blanton and Frank Bobby Cherry were indicted for their roles in the bombing.

All three men died in prison, and a fourth man, Herman Cash, died of cancer in 1994 without ever being charged.

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