[sixties-l] Survivor of '63 Bomb Recalls Glass Shards, Sister Lost (fwd)

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Date: Wed May 22 2002 - 17:07:57 EDT

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    Date: Sat, 18 May 2002 09:05:13 -0700
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Survivor of '63 Bomb Recalls Glass Shards, Sister Lost


      May 18, 2002


            By RICK BRAGG

      BIRMINGHAM, Ala., May 17 -- Sarah Collins Rudolph, even with one eye of
      glass, can still see the morning of Sept. 15, 1963, can see it sharp and

      She can still see four pretty girls, including her sister, Addie Mae
      Collins, primping in the church basement just minutes before they were to
      ascend the stairs and sing with the grown-ups in the choir at 16th Street
      Baptist Church.

      She can see the water running over her 12-year-old hands as she washed
      them in the ladies lounge, see a 14-year-old Addie Mae fussing with the
      sash of Denise McNair, who was just 11 and still played with dolls.

      She can see them all there, framed by the basement window -- Addie Mae,
      Denise, Cynthia Wesley and Carole Robertson, just before the earth shook
      and the glass flew at her face and eyes like buckshot.

      Then she could not see at all, her eyes pierced by the shrapnel, and she
      lay in the darkness and called:

      "Addie? Addie? Addie?"

      With Mrs. Rudolph's account here today of the bombing of the 16th Street
      Baptist Church, prosecutors rested their case in the state murder trial
      of Bobby Frank Cherry, the 71-year-old white supremacist who is believed
      to be the last living suspect in a historic act of evil.

      When she could finally see again, after the operations and the bandages
      and the loss of her right eye, Mrs. Rudolph could see that it was the
      simple act of washing her hands that spared her and that a few seconds
      later she would have been with her friends in front of that window, just
      feet from the bomb.

      "Glass went in my eyes," Mrs. Rudolph said, as prosecutors showed the
      jury a picture of her in the hospital then, her eyes covered with white
      bandages. But the few feet between where she stood and her friends was
      the bridge between life and death.

      As she spoke, a gray-haired woman in the jury box tried not to cry. Her
      bottom lip trembled.

      Mrs. Rudolph did not cry. She walked back to her chair, sat down and
      folded her arms, and began to wait -- as she has waited for 38 years --
      for a little more justice in a case that began back when a young,
      wavy-haired man named Bobby Frank Cherry first became one of the F.B.I.'s
      prime suspects in an investigation that sputtered and stumbled across
      four decades.

      Just a few hours before, another prosecution witness had described a
      slightly older Mr. Cherry, a man who had left the Klan behind in Alabama
      in the 1970's and moved to Texas to open a carpet cleaning business --
      and brag to relatives about the day in Alabama that he struck a historic
      blow for white supremacy.

      Teresa Francesca Stacy, Mr. Cherry's granddaughter, told the jury that
      she heard her grandfather boast of the bombing on the front porch of his
      trailer in East Texas.

      "He said he helped blow up a bunch of niggers back in Birmingham," said
      Ms. Stacy, who was about 10 at the time.

      "He seemed rather jovial," as he said it, she said.

      She said she only heard Mr. Cherry say that once, but had heard other
      relatives say that he had told them that same thing several times. "I've
      heard it for years," she said.

      In 1997, she saw her grandfather in a television press conference. He
      denied any role in the bombing.

      "I knew he was lying," Ms. Stacy said. "I called the news people. They
      put me on hold for a long time. I hung up the phone and called the

      Mickey Johnson, Mr. Cherry's defense lawyer, then began chipping away at
      Ms. Stacy's credibility by asking her questions about her motive for her
      testimony and her past.

      He asked Ms. Stacy if the attention from the case, including articles in
      Glamour magazine and Texas Monthly and an appearance on "Good Morning
      America," had "changed your life."

      He suggested that she had offered her testimony in return for a deal from
      prosecutors to reduce the sentence of her brother, who is serving a
      prison term in Texas for robbery and burglary.

      "Well, I figured I shouldn't be dragged through the mud for nothing," she

      Mr. Johnson, over the objections of prosecutors but with the blessing of
      Judge James Garrett, then asked Ms. Stacy about her addictions to drugs
      and alcohol.

      She told him that she had been addicted to drugs when she was 12, and was
      in a rehabilitation at age 13.

      "My drug of choice was cocaine," she said.

      She said she is also a recovering alcoholic who drinks socially.

      Ms. Stacy was not the first relative to say in this trial that Mr. Cherry
      boasted about the killings.

      Willadean Brogdon, a still angry former wife who was married to Mr.
      Cherry from 1970 until their divorce in 1973, testified on Thursday that
      she had heard him brag about the bombing and that he told her he was the
      man who actually planted the bomb underneath a church stairwell the night
      before the explosion.

      Officially, Mr. Cherry has repeatedly denied that he had anything to do
      with that bombing and told investigators in 1997 that he could not have
      been involved in making or planting the bomb on the night of Saturday,
      Sept. 14, 1963, the night investigators have long believed the bomb was
      placed, because he was at home with his wife, who was ill with cancer.

      Mr. Cherry told investigators he went home to be with her and to watch
      wrestling. Later, in an interview with Jerry Mitchell of The
      Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., he said he always watched wrestling on
      Saturday nights.

      Mr. Mitchell, in a search of television logs, found that there was no
      wrestling on television that night.

      Because there has been no forensic evidence linking him to the blast,
      prosecutors have tried to build a case of circumstantial evidence heavy
      with testimony about Mr. Cherry's hatred of blacks and his desire to keep
      them from mixing with whites in the Birmingham of the 1960's.

      Bob Herren, an F.B.I. agent who interviewed Mr. Cherry in Texas in 1997,
      said Mr. Cherry told him that, in 1957, he used a pair of brass knuckles
      to punch the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth. "Bopped Shuttlesworth between the
      eyes," Mr. Cherry told him, Mr. Herren testified.

      Fred Shuttlesworth would go on to become a civil rights hero in

      Mr. Herren said Mr. Cherry told him the Ku Klux Klan never would have
      blown up a church, because the Klan was a religious organization itself.

      "He told me he sang in the Klan choir at churches and funerals," Mr.
      Herren said.

      Mr. Herren said Mr. Cherry also told him he had joined the Klan because
      he wanted to work on political campaigns and "wanted to chase women when
      he went to Klan rallies."

      Day after day, prosecution witnesses have described a much different
      Birmingham from the one that exists today, a city where blacks and whites
      mix and mingle in restaurants and office buildings. The "whites only"
      signs are long gone. But it was a different place the day that Chris
      McNair, Denise's father, remembered from the witness stand here today.
      "Too vividly," he said.

      He had gone to a different church that day, on Birmingham's Southside. He
      remembers hearing a faraway boom. He turned to his brother and asked: "Is
      that thunder?"

      As he spoke about the death of his daughter, in what some people saw as a
      war by some whites against blacks, prosecutors showed the jury a picture
      of Denise holding her favorite doll. It has pink skin and blonde hair.

      It is white.

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