Sisters recall infamous 16th Street Baptist Church bombing


September 13th, 2012

Omaha, NE- Two sisters from Birmingham, Ala. spoke to around 100 guests at the University of Nebraska Omaha today about their experience with the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. Their recollections were as historic as they were tragic.

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Junie and Sarah Collins were in their teens when a bomb planted by members of the Klu Klux Klan exploded killing four young girls and injuring 22 other members of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Sarah received devastating injuries to her face, leaving her blind in one eye and partially blind in the other.

One of their younger sisters, 12-year-old Addie Mae Collins, was killed. The sisters recalled not only the tragedy of September 15, 1963, but the subsequent untreated trauma that followed.

“I began to drink, and I started smoking marijuana ‘cause I was still having this nervous condition and I thought maybe drinking and smoking would help me ease my troubles, but it didn’t help because by the time I got sober, I was still in that same condition,” said Sarah.

Junie (left) and Sarah (right) Collins both survived the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church. Their younger sister, Addie Mae, did not survive. (Photo by Lindsey Peterson)

Sarah said finding God helped bring her peace and wean her off drugs and alcohol. Junie also suffered emotional distress. She was committed to a mental hospital for 39 days where she underwent numerous shock treatments. But like Sarah, Junie credited most of her recovery to her faith.

The sisters were asked if they harbor anger towards the four perpetrators and Junie said that they do not.

I was able to forgive easily ‘cause I saw that they actually had a problem,” said Junie.

“And so when God placed that forgiveness in your heart, it’s like you pity them. It’s like nobody in their right mind is going to do something like that unless something’s wrong with them. And so I was able to go on and let the love of God be elevated and show forgiveness.”

Both sisters are writing books to be released this time next year.

To hear more from the sisters’ talk, click here.

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