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Birmingham church bombing survivor asks state for apology, compensation

Birmingham church bombing survivor asks state for apology, compensation
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A survivor of the 1963 Ku Klux Klan bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. is seeking a public apology and compensation from the state 57 years after the attack, the Associated Press reported Saturday

Sarah Collins Rudolph, known as the “fifth little girl,” lost her right eye and still has shards of glass in her body from the explosion that killed her 14-year-old sister, as well as three of their friends aged 11 to 14. 

A law firm working for free on behalf of Rudolph, who was 12 at the time of the explosion, sent a letter last week to Alabama Gov. Kay IveyKay IveyBirmingham church bombing survivor asks state for apology, compensation Roy Moore sues Alabama over COVID-19 restrictions Officials warn of 'catastrophic' flooding as Hurricane Sally makes landfall in Alabama MORE (R) arguing that the infamous attack was influenced by rhetoric used at the time by state elected officials, including Gov. George Wallace

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“Ms. Collins Rudolph simply wanted to do what so many other little girls across Alabama were doing — attend a church service,” Rudolph’s attorneys wrote in the letter, according to the Washington Post

“But instead of gaining the solace and celebration of prayer, the church was bombed by those affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan and our client lost her sister, her right eye, her childhood, and in ways she could never know then as a 12-year old girl, a lifetime’s worth of opportunities and dreams,” the letter added. 

The attorneys argued, “While the State of Alabama did not place the bomb next to the church, its Governor and other leaders at the time played an undisputed role in encouraging its citizens to engage in racial violence.” 

According to the AP, the Alabama government had not responded to the letter as of Saturday. 

Rudolph, now 69, said that the attack, which became a pivotal moment for gathering support of the civil rights movement, left her with continued physical and mental pain. According to the AP, in addition to losing her right eye, Rudolph still has a glass shard stuck in her left eye, and continues to get startled at the sound of loud noises. 

“I was going to be a nurse, but I just wasn’t able to keep up with studies anymore like I used to. I used to be a straight A student. I just wasn’t able to anymore,” she told the AP. 

Rudolph provided testimony at a series of trials that began in 1977, which resulted in murder convictions of three Klansmen. According to the AP, all three men eventually died in prison, and a suspected accomplice died without ever receiving charges in connection with the bombing.