June 18, 2014
Birmingham is called the “Magic City” because it grew very quickly due to the coalmines, steel mills, and railroad companies, but it was magic to us because we got to meet two very special people Wednesday night at Z’s Restaurant.
On September 15, 1963, the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church by three members of the Ku Klux Klan left four young ladies dead and 22 others injured. Of those injured, one was the sister of Addie Mae Collins, 14, Sarah Collins (Rudolph).
Sarah’s right eye was severely injured in the explosion and she was hospitalized for three months after the explosion. We had the honor of meeting Sarah Collins Rudolph and her husband, George Rudolph.
They were very humble and happy to meet us. Sarah told us about the day of the bombing and what she and the other girls were doing at the time. After the bomb went off, Sarah called out for her sister, “Right after the explosion I called my sister…I said—I called about three times—‘Addie, Addie, Addie.’ Addie didn’t answer.”
After Sarah told us the story, the restaurant was dead silent, except for the cooks in the kitchen and front counter. We had heard the story earlier, on a documentary video, but to hear it in person by the person who was there at the exact moment was so much more impactful.
We were able to ask Sarah and George about what happened after the bombing, the Vietnam War of which George is a veteran, and how their lives went on after the Civil Rights Movement. George and Sarah knew each other since high school and later married.
They also asked to us to keep an eye out for mentions of Sarah’s name alongside the other four girls, as she is often unrecognized of those who were severely injured. We promised.
Sarah and George were kind enough to allow us to get pictures with them, which was about everyone in the room wanted a photo. They even added us on Facebook and personally thanked us for meeting and talking with them.
Z’s Restaurant was a tight space to fit 25 people into, but it was worth it to meet the Rudolph’s and the food. Z’s specialty dish was bean pie. Those brave enough to try it said it tasted like oranges and was overall very good.
By the end of the night, I’m not sure any of us wanted to leave the company of Sarah and George. Many of us said we were very inspired by both of them.