A picture of Representative Terri A. Sewell
Terri S.
Democrat AL 7

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  • Tribute to Sarah Collins-Rudolph in Recognition of Her Sacrifices as a Survivor of the 1963 Bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama

    by Representative Terri A. Sewell

    Posted on 2013-02-28

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    SEWELL of alabama in the house of representatives Thursday, February 28, 2013 Ms. SEWELL of Alabama. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor and recognize Sarah Collins-Rudolph, a little known American hero whose life was forever changed on the morning of Sunday, September 15, 1963. On that tragic day, Sarah's sister Addie was one of four little girls killed in the noted bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. While her name isn't engraved in memorials or printed in history books, to many in the Birmingham community, Sarah is known as ``the fifth little girl.'' As we remember the 50th anniversary of this tragic event in our nation's history, we pay tribute to the four lives that were lost. But, we must also remember those that survived this horrible tragedy. Sarah Collins-Rudolph is one of those survivors. Sarah is the last of eight children born to Alice and Oscar Collins of Birmingham, AL. The day of the bombing, she was just 12 years old. Sarah and Addie Mae were one year apart and formed a unique closeness due to their closest in age.

    On the morning of the bombing, Sarah was in the bathroom of the church's basement with the four victims including Addie Mae, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley. Sarah was the only girl in the bathroom [[Page E212]] that day to survive. She lost her right eye and her life was filled with corrective surgeries and extensive medical care for her injuries. There were 21 survivors of the bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church but no single family suffered as much as the Collins family, losing Addie Mae and caring for Sarah's multiple injuries.

    The physical and emotional scars of this senseless tragedy remain with Sarah as she continues her extraordinary life. Even today, there are moments when she struggles mentally with her fate of being bombed at just 12 years old. Despite the persistent aftermath of the events, she is dedicated to making sure that the nation remembers the bombing and its significance to the civil rights movement. Sarah shares her painful story in hopes that future generations will know their history and remember those that were symbols of the civil rights movement.

    Today, I salute Sarah Collins-Rudolph for her sacrifices to our country. We are often reminded of the civil rights giants that fought on the front lines for justice and equality. But it is an imperative that we never forget the sacrifices made by all those who were a part of this transformative time in America. On behalf of a grateful nation, we say thank you to Mrs. Sarah Collins-Rudolph for the personal sacrifice and courageous fight she has endured for civil and equal rights. On that Sunday morning in 1963, Sarah's life changed instantly and she was forever scarred by the actions of those who sought to stifle America's movement. But because of Sarah, we rejoice in a new era of our history that realizes the dreams of those before us.

    We salute Mrs. Collins-Rudolph because her story was a catalyst for a new America. Her sacrifices led us to the liberties and freedoms that many of us enjoy today. I am especially grateful for Sarah's story for had it not been for her painful journey, my own journey would not be possible. As Alabama's first Black Congresswoman, I stand before you today with a humble heart knowing that Sarah's journey paved the way for my own place in American history.

    I ask all of my colleagues in the House of Representatives to join me in saluting Mrs. Sarah Collins-Rudolph, an Alabama treasure and an American hero.


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