It was gray and overcast on Sunday morning, September 15, 1963. Some rain had fallen in the night, but no one knew that the heavens would weep again before the day was done. It was “Youth Sunday” at the church, and Pastor John Cross had announced that he would preach a sermon titled “A Love that Forgives” based on the Gospel text in Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Carolyn Maull, 14, the Sunday School secretary, hurried to fulfill her responsibilities. She greeted visitors, counted Sunday School offerings, and reported the day’s attendance. In the brief interval between Sunday School and the morning worship service, Carolyn stopped by the girls’ restroom and spoke to her friends, Cynthia Wesley, Addie Mae Collins, and Carole Robertson, all 14, and Denise McNair, who was 11. She left the restroom, walked up the stairs to the church office, and answered the ringing phone. A man’s voice said simply: “Three minutes.” He hung up.
Carolyn felt confused. She walked into the sanctuary, where the clock hanging on the wall indicated that the time was 10:22 a.m. Then she heard the blast. Boom! For a second, she thought it was thunder or a lightning strike. Then she realized””it must be a bomb. She vividly remembers two things from that horror-filled moment: the sound of feet scurrying past her to get to the exits, and looking up at the stained glass window””the same one that had brought her such comfort when she looked into the face of Jesus at her baptism. The window was still intact . . . all except the face. Jesus’ beautiful face was gone.
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