Fifth Survivor of Birmingham Church Bombing Reunites with Nurse Who Saved Her

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Sarah Collins Rudolph, who survived a racist church bombing that killed sister Addie Mae Collins and three other girls in 1963, stands with husband George Rudolph at the remains of a Confederate memorial that was removed in Birmingham, Ala., on Tuesday, June 2, 2020. The city took down the more than 50-foot-tall obelisk following protests over the police death of George Floyd and a night of vandalism in the city.
Sarah Collins Rudolph, who survived a racist church bombing that killed sister Addie Mae Collins and three other girls in 1963, stands with husband George Rudolph at the remains of a Confederate memorial that was removed in Birmingham, Ala., on Tuesday, June 2, 2020. The city took down the more than 50-foot-tall obelisk following protests over the police death of George Floyd and a night of vandalism in the city.

We all know the gun-wrenching story of the four little Black girls who were killed in a senseless KKK bombing of a church in Birmingham, Al. However, there was a fifth girl. A survivor. Sarah Collins-Rudolph, sister of victim Addie Mae, met with the nurse who stayed by her side after she was found in the rubble, per The Birmingham Times.

According to the report, Rosetta ‘Rose’ Hughes was the first person to tend to Collins-Rudolph after she was found. Hughes was on duty the day 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed. She was at the emergency clinic to witness the bodies of the deceased girls come in as well as dozens of others who were injured in the racially motivated attack.

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“When I saw her that Sunday, … she was just covered with soot and ashes and blood. It looked like she was gone. … I thought she wasn’t going to wake up. … She was not moving,” recalled Hughes in an interview with The Birmingham Times.

More on the two reuniting from The Birmingham Times:

Last month, for the first time since the bombing, Hughes and Rudolph, now 71, reunited for their first one-on-one, lengthy discussion of the events on that pivotal day in world history.

“It’s more than a blessing to meet her because she took care of me,” Rudolph said during the interview. “When I was younger, I didn’t know how she looked or anything because I was practically blind then. So, just to see her now and know her is a blessing. She’s looking real good.

Hughes recalled working on the 10th floor of University Hospital, which was known as the “Eye” floor, when young Sarah was wheeled in.

“I remember they brought her to the emergency room, and I was working on the Eye floor. We had the surgery up there, and they sent her to eye surgery. … She was on a stretcher, and I took care of her until they called the doctor to come in,” said Hughes, who recalls the doctor’s name only as “Pearson” and that he arrived with a toddler.

Hughes wasn’t assigned to do anything but care for Collins-Rudolph while she was awaiting examination and treatment. However, the universe must have lined everyone up accordingly because Hughes was the last remaining worker on duty at the hospital that fateful day. She turns 101 years old next month.

“I stay in church, … and that’s what kept me. That’s what helped me really. Before, when [the bombing] first happened, I was just wandering round like in the wilderness, you know? I didn’t get counseling, … so I went the way I knew to go to alcohol and smoking marijuana until I came to God. When I came to Jesus, that’s what helped me,” Hughes told The Times.

Even though Collins-Rudolph still remembers the incident clear as day and her injuries remain as she lives with glaucoma in her left eye and a prosthetic for her right eye. Her husband, George Rudolph said he’s inspired by her strength as she holds no grudge in her heart against her attackers.

“For my wife to survive what she went through and not hold any animosity toward the KKK because she forgave them, that’s a strong person,” Rudolph said. “She didn’t want to hold her hatred in her heart for those Klansmen. When she said, ‘I forgive you,’ that was such a powerful statement.”