Day 5: Birmingham (PART III)

Just FYI I took this trip back in June. So these posts are simply reflections. 


Carolyn McKinstry, one of the survivors from the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing (1963), signing her book While the World Watched

After spending the morning in Montgomery, our group traveled to Birmingham for the afternoon. We had the liberty of exploring the city’s Civil Rights Institute by ourselves, in addition to Kelly Ingram Park and the 16th Street Baptist Church. I was grateful for this as my emotions were already too high and some of the group members…well…I needed some distance.


I wanted to take a tour of the church; however, we arrived to the city too late. According to McKinstry, the church simply placed a wall up in front of the bathroom during reconstruction.

Journal Entry: 

I wanted to know what they saw? Did they even feel the blast? Was there pain? Did they cry or were they killed immediately? What were their last memories? Were they full of joy? These four little girls did nothing wrong. You hear people say they were at the wrong place at the wrong time. And I had to catch myself when I began to nod in agreement. They were in the most sacred, most “safe” place–Denise, Carole, Cynthia, and Addie Mae where in church. Yes, the church is suppose to be a safe, untouched, sacred place, unless it is a Black one. Back then and today.

I failed to realize how common bombings became in Birmingham. Between 1947 and 1965, there were over fifty bombings in the city. The bombings fell into three categories—Black homes, Black businesses, and Black churches. Speaking with McKinstry was Lisa McNair, Denise’s younger sister. The pain, you could still see the pain in both of their eyes.

A small detail that caught my eye while reading While the World Watched was the police response to the 16th Street Church bombing. When McKinstry wrote of her neighbor’s home bombing, she stated it took hours for the police to arrive. As she recounted the day of the bombing, she went outside and the police already sat up barricades. It is one of those “mysteries”, they knew and it took decades for the 16th Street Church’s bombing victims to get some form of justice.

Short post. My journal was left blank besides a few thoughts and questions. Day Five was long, the night even longer, and sleep never came.

Until the next post.

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