SELMA, Ala. — In a powerful tribute to the late congressman, civil rights leader John Lewis’ casket made a final journey across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Channel 2′s Nicole Carr was in Selma, Alabama for the event.
The Edmund Pettus Bridge is the site of the “Bloody Sunday” march in 1965. Lewis and hundreds of civil rights marchers tried to finish crossing over the bridge, only to be beaten to near death by Alabama state troopers.
To cheers and applause, a horse-drawn caisson carried Lewis’ casket over the bridge as five of his siblings and son walked behind him.
Lewis’ casket started the final crossing from the Brown Chapel AME Church, just blocks away from the bridge. It is the very church where Bloody Sunday marchers planned their march and sought refuge following the horrific attack.
What many people saw during the ceremony was poetic justice. What others heard was a rallying call to, as one woman in the crowd put it, not just praise John Lewis, but “do” John Lewis.
Shirley Thomas traveled from Atlanta to watch the somber procession and remembered the day Alabama state troopers beat Lewis with billy clubs, fracturing his skull.
Lewis, alongside Hosea Williams, had led over 600 marchers across the bridge. When they got to the end, Alabama State Troopers ordered them to disperse. Instead, they stopped to pray.
The troopers charged the demonstrators, beating and tear gassing them.
Lewis bore the scars from that day on his head for the rest of his life.
“It took me back to that Blood Sunday when he was beaten,” Turner said. “Carrying that book bag, wearing that trench coat. I just started crying. It was just heartbreaking.”
John White said that it was amazing that the same group that beat Lewis, the Alabama state troopers, were on duty to honor, serve and escort him all these years later.
“It’s just amazing how God can turn things around,” White said. “Those who don’t believe that things have changed, just take a walk in his shoes. I think he was right about that, that we’ve come a long ways, but we have a long way to go.”
Turner said she will definitely be voting on November 3rd in Lewis’ honor. Voting rights were one of the main causes Lewis championed.
“If you have to take lawn chairs and a cooler of water and sit all day if you have to,” Turner said. “We’re going to do this for John Lewis. For John Lewis.”
McRand said he’ll also be thinking about Lewis when he votes.
“This November, I think that (to vote) would be a tremendous honor to John Lewis, our hero,” McRand said.
Carr made the trip to Selma on Saturday after an earlier memorial service in Lewis’ hometown of Troy. Carr met with mourners who’d traveled from all over the South to be here today:
“They paved the way for us to be where you are right now: Anchoring, interviewing. And where I am today? So this is an historical event. One I’m glad I didn’t miss,” Timothy Foster said.
“It takes me back to my childhood in Mississippi, And with the issues we have on us now, it’s almost questionable. Where do we go from here?” Jackie Ellis said.
Lewis never missed a chance to commemorate “Bloody Sunday” and made a surprise appearance at the 55th anniversary earlier this year.
Cox Media Group