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.
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.