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Alabama evades compensation for survivor of ’63 KKK explosion

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Sarah Collins Rudolph lost an eye and still has pieces of glass in her body from a Ku Klux Klan bombing that killed her sister and three other black girls in an Alabama church 59 years ago, and she’s still waiting for the state to recover compensate her for those injuries.

Government Kay Ivey sidestepped the issue of financial compensation two years ago in to apologize to Rudolph for her “unmentionable pain and suffering”, saying that legislative involvement was needed. But nothing has been done despite the efforts of lawyers representing Rudolph, leaving the payment issue unresolved, even as victims of other attacks, including 9/11, were compensated.

Rudolph will meet President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday, the anniversary of the bombing, for a summit on combating hate-fuelled violence.

Rudolph, known as the ‘Fifth Little Girl’ for surviving the infamous attack depicted in Spike Lee’s 1997 documentary ‘4 Little Girls’, is shocked by the state’s inaction.

Rudolph said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday. George C. Wallace helped lay the groundwork for the Ku Klux Klan attack on the 16th Street Baptist Church with his segregationist rhetoric, and the state bears some responsibility for the bombing, which went unprosecuted for years.

“If they hadn’t fueled all this racist hatred that was going on at the time, I don’t believe that church would have been bombed,” Rudolph said.

Debris has been strewn by a bomb that exploded at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. on September 15, 1963.AP

Rudolph said she still incurs medical expenses from the explosion, including a $90 bill she gets every few months for work on the prosthesis she’s wearing in lieu of the right eye that was destroyed by shrapnel on September 15, 1963. . Anything would help, but Rudolph thinks she owes millions.

Ishan Bhabha, a lawyer representing Rudolph, said the state’s apology — at Rudolph’s request along with a plea for restitution — was only intended as a first step.

“She deserves justice in the form of compensation for the serious injuries and costs she had to bear for nearly 60 years,” he said. “We will continue to follow all available avenues to give Sarah the help she needs and deserves.”

Five girls were gathered in a downstairs bathroom at 16th Street Baptist Church when a bomb planted by KKK members went off outside, leaving a huge hole in the thick brick wall. The blast killed Denise McNair, 11, and three 14-year-olds: Carole Robertson, Cynthia Morris, also known as Cynthia Wesley, and Addie Mae Collins, Rudolph’s sister.

Three Klan members convicted years later of murder during the bombing died in prison and a fourth suspect died without ever being charged. The bombing took place eight months after Wallace declared “segregation forever” in his inaugural address and at the time when Birmingham schools were first racially integrated.

The church itself has received government funding for renovations, as has the surrounding Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, formed by President Barack Obama in 2017 in one of his last acts of office. “But not me,” said Rudolph.

At the time of the apology, Ivey said in a letter to Rudolph’s lawyer that any potential compensation would require regulatory approval, press secretary Gina Maiola said.

“In addition, that same point was repeated in lawyer-to-lawyer conversations that followed shortly after,” she said.

No bill has been introduced to compensate Rudolph, legislative documents indicate, and it’s unclear whether such legislation could pass after all, as conservative Republicans have an overwhelming majority and have made it a matter of winning. history lessons that make white people feel bad about the past.

While the Alabama Crime Victims’ Compensation Commission assists victims and families with expenses related to a crime, state law does not allow it to address crimes that occurred before the agency was founded in 1984.

Rudolph has endured physical and mental pain from the bombing all his life. Despite her injuries and ongoing stress, Rudolph gave testimony that led to the convictions of the men accused of planting the bomb, and she has written a book about her life entitled “The 5th Little Girl.”

Rudolph’s husband, George Rudolph, said he is frustrated and angry with the way his wife has been treated. Victims of September 11, 2001 terror attacks were: compensatedhe said, like the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

“Why can’t they do anything for Sarah?” he said.

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