The Common Good
February 2011

By Hate Defiled

by Carolyn McKinstry, Denise George | February 2011

On a September morning in 1963, terror came to the Sixteenth Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

I walked into the sanctuary, toward the stained-glass window of Jesus, his kind face and loving eyes focused on me, and that’s when I heard it. Boom! The blast shook the building.

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Thunder? I thought. Maybe a lightning strike?

The sound was muffled, not loud and earth-shattering like the bombs I had heard so many times when Klan members dynamited black homes and businesses throughout the city.

Glass cracked and crashed to the floor, but I barely noticed. I just wanted to get out of there.

What is happening? I asked myself.

Someone shouted, "Hit the floor!"

I dropped. Sprawled out flat in the aisle on the sanctuary floor, I still held the Sunday school reports in my hands.

Seconds passed -- one ... two ... three ... four ... five. I heard no more sounds. No breaking glass. No movement. No voices. Just silence. Dead silence. More seconds passed—six ... seven ... eight ... nine. Fear enveloped me. What is happening! For at least 10 full seconds, no one moved. Nothing happened.

Then I heard and felt on the floor beneath me a stampede of feet -- moving, running, scurrying to escape the building. Jumping up from the floor, I ran to the nearby exit and looked outside.

What is going on? Police cars were everywhere.

How could they get here so quickly? The church was already surrounded, and police were putting up barricades on the streets around the building.

Chaos ruled. Several church members stood outside with stunned expressions. Heads were cut and bleeding. Loved ones wiped their blood-wet faces. Mrs. Demand ran outside, her lower leg gashed by flying glass and her shoe filled with blood. Parents were frantically searching for their children.

Now I knew for certain it was a bomb. I ran out the door looking for my two brothers. How could there be a bomb here in my church? I could hardly comprehend such a thought. I had heard bombs go off in my neighborhood, but it seemed unfathomable that it could happen in this safe haven.

I looked up at the stained-glass Jesus window that stood above me and searched for the face that had always brought me such comfort, security, and peace. The window was intact, its glass unbroken ... except ... except for the face of Jesus. The bomb had cleanly blown away his face. Nothing else. Just his face.

Excerpted from While the World Watched, by Carolyn McKinstry with Denise George, with permission from Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright 2011 by authors. All rights reserved.

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