Sobbing Mothers Recall Tragic Sunday Morning


(Originally run September 28, 1963) Perhaps in time, the ache in the hearts of Mrs. Alice Collins and Mrs. Alvin Robertson will ease – but now the hurt is too recent for them to do anything but cry when they speak of their daughters.

Addie Mae Collins, 14, and Carole Rosamond Robertson, 14, were two of the four girls killed in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church. On Friday, the mothers were still crying and obviously near a state of complete collapse.

In the modest living room of her home at 233 6th Ct., W., Mrs. Collins was slowly sorting through some of the mail and telegrams she has received. There hasn’t been time to tabulate the number, or even acknowledge them, but they have been read and appreciated.

Recalling what it had been like on Sunday morning, Mrs. Collins spoke of the breakfast Addie Mae had eaten before leaving for Sunday school; sausage, sweet potatoes and grits.

Addie was one of eight children. She was a regular member at the 16th Street church and last Sunday started off at any other Sunday.

She left the house about 9:10 a.m. but she came back in and asked her mother could she put some powder on her face.

“I told her no at first and something told me to let her come back. She asked me ‘Mommy, don’t I look like you?’ and I told her to stop fooling and go along to church.”

The church is almost 20 blocks from her home, but Addie and two of her sisters, Jannie and Sarah walked. It was a pleasant.

Also headed for Sunday school were three other sisters, Hattie B., Junie and Addie B. Collins. They took the bus.

Asked why two girls with the same name, Mrs. Collins smiled wanly and explained that her husband had named the children and he seemed to have run out of names.

Mrs. Collins was still at home when one of her daughters called and said there had been an explosion. A few seconds later University Hospital called and asked her to come.

She found her daughter Addie dead, and another daughter, Sarah, 23, with her eyes badly damaged. There is still some doubt about Sarah being able to see again.

The grief of the mother is still so strong she finds it hard to tell how she feels about the men who killed her child.

“I can’t tell, I can’t tell,” she says, but she says it without bitterness.

Not far from Addie Mae’s home is the home of Carole Robertson – or rather her former home, at 1021 Fifth St., N.

Both of Carole’s parents are school teachers and she, like so many other teenagers, hasn’t quite made up her mind what profession she would choose, but her latest interest had been to become an airline stewardess.

Sunday was to be a big day for Carole. She was to serve her first time as an usher at the church.

For the occasion, she had on a very special white dress.

“She didn’t have a coat on so I told her to get a little lightweight jacket,” her mother said.

Carole’s father took her to Sunday school and on the way they stopped by the home of her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. John H. Anderson Sr., where she received her weekly allowance and a white necklace to compliment the very special outfit.

A few minutes later she was dead.

Mrs. Robertson also has not had the time to read the card, letters and telegrams that have come in from all over the country and from overseas.

“It’s something still like a nightmare,” Mrs. Robertson said. “I’ve tried not to have any bitterness about the people who have done the thing that they have done.”

No bitterness in their hearts – this is the way two mothers here in Birmingham have accepted the deaths of their daughters.

Click for related articles:

“‘Four Little Girls’ Awarded Congressional Gold Medals”

“The Last Living Bomber of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church”

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