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Karl Fleming, "My God, You're Not Even Safe in Church"
Newsweek, September 30, 1963

Within hours, the explosion sent a shock wave of horror and outrage throughout the South, across the land, around the world. The blast had killed four little Negro girls. There was every sign it would add new intensity to the seething racial turmoil of Birmingham—where bombings have been commonplace—new fervor to the Negro revolt, new impetus to lagging Federal civil-rights legislation.

The first effect of the bombing, in Birmingham, was a fast-moving phantasmagoria of grief, terror, and hysteria. Pouring out of the church into the chilly street, women and children shrieked amid the debris. Men shouted. A young girl, Sarah Collins, staggered blindly out of the hold ripped by the explosion, her face spewing blood. She stretched her arms in front of her, unseeing, and screamed incoherently.

Negroes by the hundreds swarmed to the scene. Many flung rocks at police cars as they arrived, sirens whining. Half a dozen ambulances and a fire truck raced up into the pandemonium. A Negro woman, heel-deep in glass in the street, screamed: "In church! My God, you're not even safe in church."

Copyright © 1963 Newsweek, Inc.  Selected from the Library of America anthology.  See  Reporting  Civil  Rights:  American Journalism 1963-1973.