Birmingham bombing survivor recalls day that led to civil rights legislation

Sarah Collins Rudolph travels the country telling people she was a few feet away when the bomb killed her sister and her friends.

ATLANTA — It's been nearly 60 years since a woman survived a church bombing that killed four little girls.

The Birmingham, Alabama attack shook up the nation and led to the signing of revolutionary civil rights legislation.

Channel 2′s Tom Jones spoke to the survivor while she was in town to share her story.

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Many people go to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights to learn about that deadly bombing.

Sarah Collins Rudolph travels the country telling people she was a few feet away when the bomb killed her sister and her friends.

“I always wondered why I was spared and the other girls (were) killed,” she said.

Rudolph believes it was God who spared her when she was the only survivor when a bomb ripped through the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963.

“I heard that sound. A sound I will never forget,” Rudolph said.

Racists targeted the church because it was where civil rights leaders met to strategize.

Rudolph remembers seeing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. there as a child.

Later, the then 12-year-old, her sister and three others were in the basement of the church.

“That's when I heard this noise. Boom. I said, ‘Jesus,’” Rudolph said.

A bomb hit the church, killing her sister and her three friends.

Rudolph lost sight in one eye. She still has glass in her good eye and parts of her body.

“My doctor says he (doesn’t) want to remove it since I don't have but one eye,” Rudolph said.

She can't remove the thought that someone would hate blacks so much they would plant a bomb at a church and kill children.

She says bombings weren't unusual at that time.

Some whites were upset blacks were moving into their neighborhoods.

“I never did think they would go that far,” Rudolph said about the violence at a church.

She said she thinks about the bombing often.

She misses her sister, but she says at least the girls didn't die in vain.

“Because of them, the civil rights bill was passed,” Rudolph said.

Sarah Collins Rudolph
Sarah Collins Rudolph (WSB-TV)