The "Four Spirits" sculpture in Kelly Ingram Park is a memorial for the four little girls killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. Source: Melynda Sides/WBRC
"A Love That Forgives" was the title of the sermon for September 15, 1963, the day the bomb went off. Source: Melynda Sides/WBRC
The sculpture shows one girl tying a bow on the dress of another girl who is releasing doves into the air. Source: Melynda Sides/WBRC
The names and photos of the children who were murdered on Sept. 15, 1923 are along the side of the sculpture. Source: Melynda Sides/WBRC
The six doves being released stand for each of the four girls and two boys killed the same day, Virgil Ware and Johnny Robinson. Source: Melynda Sides/WBRC
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -
More than 200 people turned out for the unveiling of the "Four Spirits" sculpture in Kelly Ingram Park on Saturday.
The "Four Spirits" was created as a memorial to the four little girls that died in the 16th Street Church bombing in 1963: Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carolyn Robertson and Cynthia Wesley.
Carolyn McKinstry, a survivor of the bombing, opened the unveiling ceremony with a prayer at Kelly Ingram Park, across the street from the church.
"Teach us forgiveness, oh God. Teach us in the memory of four innocent girls taken from us too soon," McKinstry prayed.
Relatives of all those who lost their lives at the bombing plus the family of two young boys murdered that day, Virgil Ware and Johnny Robinson, attended the ceremony. The only living parents of the little girls, Chris and Maxine McNair, were also there.
Joseph Lowery, the former head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was the keynote speaker.
"The death of these four children may lead the southland from the low road of man's inhumanity to man to the high road of peace and brotherhood," Lowery said.
Birmingham Mayor William Bell said some did not want to remember the tragic event but Bell added it was necessary to pay tribute to those who died for the city to go forward.
"We changed the world, Birmingham. We changed the world and today we are here to say thank you," Bell said.
After the sculpture were unveiled, Denise Story, a cousin and a namesake of Denise McNair, called it a moving memorial.
"Denise is my cousin and its been a long time waiting but it's timely," Story said.
As he was leaving the park, Chris McNair appeared to be pleased.
"A good day," McNair said.
Doug Jones, former U.S. Attorney who put away the last two church bombers said the sculpture sends a message to the world.
"It's a message of remembrance. It's a message of hope. What they died for so we remember we don't want to make the same mistakes of the past," Jones said.
A Birmingham woman had tears in her eyes as she went to view the memorial.
"Feeling the pain and sadness. Those young girls, didn't do nothing to nobody. Just to come to this and witness. Its so beautiful," Charlotte Gordon said.
The memorial was officially dedicated Sunday afternoon. A relative of one of the bombing victims saw the memorial for the first time Sunday.
Kelli Ford says her mother was first cousins with Cynthia Wesley. She says seeing the Four Spirits brought her to tears.
"Seeing the bronze statue that had "murdered" underneath her name that's what's causing me to be emotional. It's not like it never registered but it really registers when I see murder," Ford said.
Ford says relatives tell her Cynthia had promised her grandmother - Cynthia's aunt - that she would come visit after church that day. Of course, she never made the trip.