Nightly News   |  September 15, 2013

Infamous Birmingham church bombing remembered

The four young victims of an Alabama church bombing, which became a pivotal point in the Civil Rights Movement, are remembered fifty years after their deaths. NBC’s Sarah Dallof reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> finally tonight, in 1963 , this country reached a crossroads in the struggle for civil rights . just weeks after martin luther king jr .'s groundbreaking "i have a dream" speech, his dream of racial equality seemed dashed in one horrific act of hate. it was 50 years ago four black girls were murdered in the bombing of a birmingham , alabama church where today their lives were honored. here is nbc's sarah dalloff.

>> reporter: bells ring out across a clear blue sky marking the moment a bomb ripped through the baptist church on another sunday five decades ago. inside five girls had stopped at the bathroom on their way to hear the day's sermon. carroll robinson, cynthia wesley, denise mcnair, addy mae collins was killed. her sister survived.

>> i heard this loud sound, boom. and then it came in.

>> reporter: the death of four girls simblized a terrible reality in birmingham . violence against those who fought for equal rights was common.

>> what murdered these four girls? the apathy and the complacency of many a negro who will sit down on their stools and do nothing and not engage in creative protest to get rid of this evil system.

>> reporter: during the next two years, the nation saw the passage of key civil rights bills, and the end of segregation. a legacy of the four little girls lost.

>> i've always been really touched by what happened here. once i became a parent, everything is just elevated.

>> reporter: the same sunday school sermon planned for 50 years ago was given this morning. later, former secretary of state condoleezza rice , a birmingham native who was friends with denise mcnair spoke.

>> it was terrifying for a child of 8, but i think really it must have been much more terrifying for the parents of birmingham to wonder if when they put their kids to sleep they were going to wake up.

>> reporter: and a sculpture commemorating the four victims was unveiled. located in a park near the church, it captures the moment right before the bombing.

>> because of them, it's just opened up avenues and doors for us as a people.

>> reporter: innocence and joy forever frozen in time. in birmingham , alabama sarah dahloff, nbc news.