BIRMINGHAM, A.L. (WNCN) — At 10:22 a.m. Friday morning marked 60 years since the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
Four little girls died in that blast.
Their tragic deaths birthed a major change in the modern Civil Rights Movement.
For one woman, it was more than a moment in history, it changed her life before she was even born.
Lisa McNair’s sister Denise was one of those four young girls, who at 10;22 Sunday morning on September 15, 1963, lost their lives in that hate-filled church bombing.
Birmingham, a city that saw so many bomb attacks between 1947 and 1965, it became known as “Bombing-ham.”
Four innocent lives were lost in that bombing: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Denise McNair. None older than 14.
“I think about that often, what it would’ve been like to get to know her.”
Lisa McNair is Denise McNair’s, baby sister.
She was born one year and four days after her sister’s tragic murder.
Every year it’s an emotional rollercoaster.
“It’s 9/11, September 15th, and then my birthday,” she said.
Living with such tragedy, she struggled with it as a child.
For Lisa, she’s had to learn to live in the shadow of a civil rights martyr and how to handle that heavy toll.
“It’s very different. Growing up it’s like it was this thing that just kind of hung over me. That I didn’t have any control over. I just wanted to be treated like a regular kid. Just like everybody else,” she said.
It took some time and some years, but Lisa has embraced her destiny.
She became a public speaker and has written a book titled “Dear Denise: Letters to a Sister I Never Knew.”
“It’s a peek into what it was like in our household and processing that grief. People haven’t really heard about it, people don’t know,” Lisa said.
Lisa’s childhood also included integrating an all-white private school.
Her book addresses the identity complexities that were created.
She is determined to keep the memory of her sister’s short life alive as well as the other girls. And that of her parents, their struggles and most importantly, their triumphs.
“I want people to not forget them. Don’t forget the four girls. Don’t forget September 15, 1963… because if we’re not careful, of the people who are silent, don’t standup and speak up for what’s going wrong in this country now, we could repeat this history that I’m sure no one wants to repeat,” Lisa said.
This morning, at 10:22 a.m., church bells tolled across the city— it was the exact moment of that blast 60 years ago.
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first African American woman on the U.S. Supreme Court, spoke at the anniversary service this morning at the church in Birmingham.
She said she felt in her spirit, she had to come.
That bombing contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.