BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Hundreds gathered on Thursday at the 16th Street Baptist Church to remember the lives of four girls who were killed there 59 years ago.
“Addie Mae, Denise, Carole and Cynthia, we honor your names,” Gaile Pugh Greene said as she delivered the service’s litany.
Their lives were cut short, and more than a dozen others were injured when the KKK bombed the building in 1963. Nearly 60 years later, the community looks back on that tragedy.
“We are remembering today a dark chapter in the history of Birmingham and the history of America,” Pastor Tony Evans said.
Evans shared a message of hope that Birmingham and the country never return to their racist past.
“My tomorrow is going to be better than my yesterday. My future is going to be greater than my past, and where I’m going is going to be greater than where I came from,” Evans said.
It’s a meaningful message for Lisa McNair, whose older sister Denise died that day.
“It’s a sad day to commemorate the four girls and their loss, but I’m always encouraged by the communities coming around and helping us commemorate it, letting me know and the families know that they haven’t forgotten,” McNair said.
McNair wants people to never forget the past so it won’t be repeated.
“Let’s not get back to that time of hate in each other. We need to love each other, and so that’s what it means to me,” McNair said.
After the service, community leaders held a ribbon cutting, opening the now-renovated parsonage beside the church. The building serves as a museum, highlighting the work of Black leaders who helped build the city in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
McNair is also honoring her sister with a book she just published called “Dear Denise: Letters To The Sister I Never Knew.”