Birmingham, Ala., was at the center of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.
And at the center of Birmingham's fight for justice was the 16th Street Baptist church. The church held a prominent place in the city's African American community. And it was the site of many trainings for civil rights workers and meetings by the movement's leaders.
Something that did not go unnoticed by the terrorists in the Ku Klux Klan.
It was Sunday, Sept. 15, 1963 — 58 years ago today. Four KKK members planted at least 15 sticks of dynamite under the church steps near the basement. The bomb was fixed with a timer.
At 10:22 a.m. a call was placed to the church. When answered, the caller said two words — "Three minutes."
The caller's timing was off because in less than a minute an explosion rocked the building.
The church was heavily damaged and the blast was felt blocks away. But the worst was yet to come.
Four young girls — Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, all 14, and Carol Denise McNair, just 11 — were killed. More than 20 others were injured at the scene.
There had been many other violent acts during the civil rights struggle. Many deaths. But few drew so much attention, so much anger from black and white citizens alike as the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.
It didn't take long to figure out who was involved. There were four main suspects, all KKK members. But prosecuting the brutal killer would be a lot more difficult.
It wasn't until 1977 that one of the four suspects was tried and convicted Robert Chamblis, known as "Dynamite Bob." He got life. He died in prison in 1985
Thomas Blanton was convicted in 2001 and was also sentenced to life. He would have been eligible for parole this year, but died in June 2020.
A third suspect, Bobby Frank Cherry, was tried the next year, convicted and also received life. He died in 2004.
The fourth suspect, Herman Cash, died in 1994 before charges could be brought.
Four innocent young girls savagely murdered in the cause of white supremacy. A dark spot on our nation's history.
We should never forget those four young girls. And we should do whatever we can to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.