By Sophia Lindsey
WASHINGTON - House Speaker John Boehner was visibly moved by the commemorative ceremony for four young African-American girls killed in an Alabama church bombing nearly 50 years ago. The “four little lights,” as Boehner, R-West Chester Twp., referred to them, were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal Tuesday.
“Love saw us through this,” Boehner said, his voice unsteady, as he struggled to hold back tears, “and will see us through the trials that we all face today.” Boehner led the ceremony and paused several times during his speech to reach for a tissue.
Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley were in the ladies’ dressing room of the 16th Street Baptist Church when the bomb detonated on Sept. 15, 1963. Members of a Ku Klux Klan group had placed it under the steps of the church in Birmingham. The girls’ deaths sparked a turning point in American history, adding fuel to the ongoing discussion on civil rights and pushing Congress to pass a landmark civil rights bill.
“Birmingham had to go through hell, but found its way back and pushed itself forward and pushed the whole country forward as well,” Boehner said.