Memorial services recall the civil rights death toll of Sept. 15, 1963

| September 24, 2012

BIRMINGHAM — About 80 people gathered at Kelly Ingram Park today for a memorial service and the laying of six wreaths to remember the six Birmingham youth killed on Sept. 13, 1963, during one of the most violent days of the civil rights movement.

"Sometimes tragedies have to happen for us to unite," said Myrna Jackson, first vice president of the Metro Birmingham NAACP. "Don't fool yourself into thinking all is well, because it's not. We're on our way but we're not quite there."

Bishop Calvin Woods, president of the Birmingham chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, also spoke. "In a sense we've crossed a stream but still there are mighty oceans of adversity that lie ahead," he said.

"The fight is not over," said Birmingham City Councilman Johnathan Austin. "The battle is not complete. We've come a long way as a country. We certainly have a long way to go."

Today's mid-day service was organized by the Birmingham Civil Rights Activist Committee. Six children sat in chairs near the lectern, symbolic of the six who died on Sept. 15, 1963.

A bomb explosion at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church killed four black girls, 11-year-old Denise McNair and 14-year-olds Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley. Two other black youth were killed that day: Johnny Robinson, 16, was shot in the back by police. Two white youth shot Virgil Ware, 13, as he rode his bicycle.

Sixteenth Street Baptist Church will also host a memorial service Saturday at 10 a.m. to mark the 49th anniversary of the deadly 1963 bombing at the church that galvanized the civil rights movement.

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