Survivor of Alabama Church Bombings Wants Millions in Compensation

Sarah Collins Rudolph feels forgotten about since being injured and losing her sister 50 years ago.

Posted: 04/11/2013 12:13 PM EDT
Survivor of Alabama Church Bombings Wants Millions in Compensation

Sarah Collins Rudolph lost an eye in the Birmingham, Alabama, church bombings that killed four little girls 50 years ago.  

As the lone survivor, she said Wednesday that she wants millions in compensation for her injuries and the life-long pain and suffering she's endured since the horrible tragedy, according to the Associated Press

"We haven't received anything, and I lost an eye," said Rudolph, who is still deciding on the amount she wants. "They just want to throw a medal at us," she told AP. 

Congress may give Congressional Gold Medals to the four girls who died: 14-year-olds Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, and 11-year-old Denise McNair. 

Addie Mae was Rudolph's sister. Rudolph's life was spared because she was in a downstairs bathroom of the church when the incident happened. The other girls were in a washroom near the wall where the bombing took place. It took more than a decade to prosecute and convict the three Ku Klux Klan members who bombed the church.

Fate Morris, the brother of Cynthia Wesley, is refusing the Congressional medal and wants compensation, too. The medals are the highest civilian honor the government branch can give.

"It's a smoke screen to shut us up and make us go away so we'll never be heard from again," Morris told AP.

The Associated Press reports

Morris said his sister was staying with a family named "Wesley" at the time of the bombing to get into a good school, but she still came back to the Morris household on weekends. Authorities mistakenly recorded her last name as "Wesley" and never fixed the error, he said, until the family sought an amended death certificate decades later.

Morris said he vividly recalls hearing the blast that morning and running to the church with friends to help dig through the rubble. He remembers people calling out about finding bodies amid broken bricks but said he left in fear before his sister's remains were found.

Morris, sobbing during an interview, said a friend told him moments later that Cynthia's decapitated remains had been found. He said he's never shaken the pain.

"I left her buried in a pile of bricks. That's all I could think of," he said through tears.

Stephanie Engle, an activist who is publicizing the families' push for compensation, said victims of the bombing deserve reparation just like Japanese Americans who received payments through a $1.6 billion program decades after being held in internment camps during World War II.

Birmingham's entire Jim Crow structure of racial segregation created a climate of fear and hate that resulted in the girls' deaths, she said. Engle said "medals, statues, and 'pomp-and-circumstance ceremonies' are not a substitution for justice, moral, and historical accountability."

Read the full story here

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(Photo: AP Photo/Jay Reeves)

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