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‘Fifth Girl’ in 1963 Church Bombing Gets an Apology From Alabama’s Governor

Sarah Collins Rudolph had appealed to local and state leaders in Alabama for years, asking for some form of restitution, after the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. The explosion blinded her right eye, killed her sister and three other girls, and started a struggle with injuries and trauma that weighs on Ms. Rudolph to this day.

This week, after 57 years, a formal apology from the governor of Alabama brought her one step closer to resolution.

The victims and their families “suffered an egregious injustice that has yielded untold pain and suffering over the ensuing decades,” Gov. Kay Ivey wrote in a letter dated Wednesday. “For that, they most certainly deserve a sincere, heartfelt apology — an apology that I extend today without hesitation or reservation.”

Lawyers representing Ms. Rudolph, 69, said that while the apology was extremely significant and meaningful to their client, an Alabama native, it was only part of what was needed. In a Sept. 14 letter to the governor, they called on the state not just to apologize but also to compensate Ms. Rudolph “to right the wrongs that its past leaders encouraged and incited.”

Ishan Bhabha, one of her lawyers, said on Saturday that the quest for restitution had always been a “two-part endeavor.”

He said that Ms. Rudolph lives with physical disabilities resulting from the explosion that have curtailed her opportunities in life and that she has tremendous medical bills to pay, adding that the explosion had “put her life on a fundamentally different track.”

Ms. Rudolph still bears the scars from when dynamite exploded at the church, killing four Black girls: Denise McNair, who was 11, and Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Addie Mae Collins, Ms. Rudolph’s sister, who were 14.

Read entire article at New York Times