Birmingham remembers the deadly 1963 church bombing by the KKK

Updated 3:45 p.m. ET

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama Hundreds of people black and white filled an Alabama church that was bombed by the Ku Klux Klan 50 years ago to mark the anniversary of a blast that killed four little girls.

The Rev. Arthur Price taught the same Sunday school lesson that students heard the morning of the bombing: "A Love That Forgives."

16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Ala., bombing
Churchgoers attend services at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013. Sunday marks the 50th anniversary of the bombing of the church by Ku Klux Klan members that killed four young girls on Sept. 15, 1963, and became a landmark moment in the civil rights struggle.
AP Photo/Dave Martin

Congregation members and visitors sang the old hymn "Love Lifted Me" and joined hands in prayer at Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church.

"It is a sad story, but there is a joy that came out of it," said Sarah Collins Rudolph, who survived the blast, according to Reuters. Her 14-year-old sister, Addie Mae Collins, was among the victims of the bomb.

Earlier, Rudolph, talked to CBS News about the pain she felt entering the 16th Street Baptist Church.

"I just kept wondering, why did they kill Addie? Addie never did anything for someone to kill her," said Sarah.

Rudolph was showered with debris and flying glass. She lay in the hospital, eyes bandaged, for nearly three months. Doctors had to remove her right eye.

She now wears a prosthesis and still has pieces of glass in her left eye.

Fifty years later, Sarah still suffers from what happened.

"When I would go to bed at night, I would just cry all night long, just why did they kill those girls," said Sarah.

However, Sarah said she feels no bitterness.

"Being bitter won't bring the girls back, won't bring my sight back. So I had to forgive because it was what God wanted me to do," she said.

Rev. Price, at the church's Sunday school class, asked: "What would you do if you could get your hands on that Blanton dude who bombed the church?"

The Christian answer, Price said, according to Reuters, is to practice "the love that forgives."

The four girls killed in the Birmingham, Alabama, bombing.
The four girls killed in the Birmingham, Alabama, bombing.
CBS

In a statement Sunday, President Obama said:"We remember Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley who were killed 50 years ago in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. That horrific day in Birmingham, Alabama quickly became a defining moment for the Civil Rights Movement. It galvanized Americans all across the country to stand up for equality and broadened support for a movement that would eventually lead to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964."

Later Sunday, Attorney General Eric Holder and others are scheduled to attend a commemoration.

A dynamite bomb went off outside the church on Sept. 15, 1963, killing four girls and critically injuring a fifth. The Klansmen were convicted in the bombing years later, and one remains imprisoned.