Charleston Stirs Memories Of Young Birmingham Bombing Victim Decades before the deadly shootings at a South Carolina church, a church bombing killed four girls in Alabama. A friend of one of the girls describes the emotional scars both incidents have left.
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Charleston Stirs Memories Of Young Birmingham Bombing Victim

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Charleston Stirs Memories Of Young Birmingham Bombing Victim

Charleston Stirs Memories Of Young Birmingham Bombing Victim

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Friday morning means it is time for StoryCorps. Fifty-one years before the deadly shooting at a church in Charleston, S.C., there was another infamous attack on a Southern black church. The 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., was bombed by the Ku Klux Klan on September 15, 1963. Four young girls were murdered - Cynthia Wesley, Carol Robertson, Addie Mae Collins were each 14 years old. Denise McNair was 11. Gwen Moten was best friends with Denise, and she recently sat down for StoryCorps to remember her.

GWEN MOTEN: Denise and I, we went everywhere together. We stayed over each other's house. We'd sleep in the same bed. And we had become so close that the teachers actually separated us. The last time I saw Denise was the night before the bombing. I remember her mother asking my mother if I could go with her to church the next day, but my mother said no. So I walked her to the door and I said I'll see you later.

And I recall that so clearly because for so long I couldn't say those words - I'll see you later - and I didn't know why I wouldn't until I became an adult. As a child I don't know if I understood death. There was someone I used to touch and talk with whose life was taken away. During that time many churches, homes, black businesses, were bombed. It was, like, part of life. It was a part of living and growing up in the South. But when I heard about the shooting in the church in South Carolina, I began to shake and I began to cry. It just came out of me because it stays within you. And it's almost like here is this link - another link - of death. The question is when will we break this link?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: That's Gwen Moten talking about her best friend, Denise McNair, who was murdered in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing of 1963. Her remembrance will be archived in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. And you can get the StoryCorps podcast on iTunes and also at NPR.org.

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