Congressional Gold Medal for four girls killed in ’63 church bombing set for Sept. 10

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WASHINGTON – The Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring the four young girls killed in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing will be Sept. 10 at the U.S. Capitol.

The event, where Congress sheds its partisan rancor and awards its highest civilian honor, will be five days before the 50th anniversary of the girls’ deaths at the hands of Ku Klux Klansmen bombers.

Addie Mae Collins, 14, Denise McNair, 11, Carole Robertson, 14, and Cynthia Wesley, 14, were killed by a bomb planted near the basement of 16th Street Baptist Church, a prominent black church in downtown Birmingham. The murders shocked the country and prompted Congress to enact civil rights legislation, and three of the bombers were eventually convicted.

The families of at least two of the girls are expected to attend the ceremony.

President Barack Obama in May signed the law to posthumously award the medal, which is used to recognize influential world leaders, military heroes, scientists, actors, artists, institutions and events. The actual gold medal minted for the occasion will be displayed across the street from the church at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

“While we recognize that this medal cannot in any way replace the lives lost nor the injuries suffered as a result of the horrific bombing, I hope this medal serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of the many sacrifices made and the great achievements obtained so that this nation could live up to its ideals of equality and justice for all,” Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, said during the House debate on the resolution awarding the medal.

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