The fifth girl that was in the basement was Sarah Collins (12), Addie Mae’s sister. Sarah had to identify her sister's body. Later, Sarah survived the bombing, but her injuries were extensive. She lost her right eye and undergone major psychological damage. She missed Addie's funeral because she was still hospitalized.
In March of 2012, I was a part of the Congressional Pilgrimage to Alabama. While in Alabama, I had to the opportunity to meet and speak to Sarah Collins Rudolph and Carolyn McKinstry. The conversation shed a lot of light on the bombing and the city at the time. I also visited the 16th Street Baptist Church.
The stone marker is set where the bomb went off. I took this last year when I visited Alabama.
After an investigation, it was proven that the attack was racially motivated and the dynamite was planted by members of the KKK. Those involved in the attack were Bobby Frank Cherry, Thomas Blanton, Herman Frank Cash, and Robert Chambliss. On October 8, 1963, Robert Chambliss was charged with possessing dynamite without a permit. He received a one hundred dollar fine and six months in jail. In 1977, Chambliss was charged and sentenced to life in prison. He died in a hospital in 1985. In 2000, the FBI found that there were three others involved in the attack. At this time, Herman Frank Cash was dead but Frank Cherry and Thomas Blanton were convicted.
(Thomas Blanton and Bobby Frank Cherry)
As a result of the bombing, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed.
Back in 2004, Dr. Tracy Snipe (Political Science) department brought some family members of the four little girls to Wright State to discuss the bombing and the Civil Rights Movement. The title of the event was, “4 Women from Birmingham.”
On September 10, 2013, Congress presented family members of the four little girls with Congressional Gold Medals at the U.S Capitol.
(Pictured here are Rep. Terri Sewell, Sarah Rudolph Collins, unnamed family member and Rep. Spencer Bachus.)
For further information on the bombing, the case, and events to commemorate the 50th anniversary here are some links:
Long Forgotten, 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing Survivor Speaks Out
1963 Birmingham Church Bombing Fast Facts
Congress to present Gold Medal honoring Birmingham's 'four little girls' this afternoon