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"Fifth little girl" Sarah Collins Rudolph shares her survival story from the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963.

Sarah Collins Rudolph telling her story at the Guyon Auditorium at SIU
Benjy Jeffords
Sarah Collins Rudolph telling her story at the Guyon Auditorium at SIU

Sarah Collins Rudolph is a survivor of the 1963 Birmingham 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and shared her story at Morris Library Wednesday.

She is known as the fifth little girl because she was in the same basement room with four friends who were the only ones who did not survive the explosion.

In a packed auditorium, Rudolph described how she was rescued by one of the church's deacons.

“When he began to take the steps, he learned the steps were blown away, so what he did, he jumped down and he looked into the crater and seen me standing and he went on the inside and he bought me out and the ambulance that was already out waiting, so it rushed me to the hospital.”

Rudolph says during that time schools did counsel kids after terrifying experiences and that left her traumatized for many years.

“I would not talk about the bomb. I was about 40 some years old, 46 years old, before I really talked about it because I was so fearful, so after prayer, when the pastor prayed for me and that’s when I really began to go around the United States talking about.”

Three of four men with ties to the KKK were eventually charged with prosecutions in 1977, 2001 and 2002, the fourth person passed away in 1994 and was never charged.

This incident along with others that year contributed to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Learn more about Sarah Collins Rudolph.

Benjy Jeffords is a digital media production specialist at WSIU Public Broadcasting located at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Contact WSIU Radio at 618-453-6101 or email wsiunews@wsiu.org
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