Denise smiling back at me

Deborah Miller-Smith

Deborah Miller-Smith

Age 9 in 1963

Deborah Miller’s beloved teacher’s daughter was killed that day.

I remember seeing Denise in the hallway on Friday September 13, 1963 at Center Street Elementary where her mother taught. I had just been promoted to the 4th grade and would miss Mrs. McNair terribly since I would no longer be in her 3rd grade class anymore. That Sunday morning was the same as usual with us kids at the dining room table reading the funny pages of the newspaper while waiting for my grandmother to get ready for Sunday School. Hearing a blast was not unusual because of the various steam and steel plants surrounding us, but this time the windows rattled and on the radio they announced there had been a bombing at Sixteenth Street Baptist and asked everyone to please stay at home. The magnitude of this story would not come to light until later that evening when word got out that four little girls had been killed and they were not sure if others were in the church rubble. The next day I learned the horrific story about the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) bombing the church and that my beloved teacher’s daughter Denise had been one of the little girls killed. My nine year old mind could not comprehend the horrors of that frightful Sunday’s bombings but the memory of seeing a pretty little girl named Denise smiling back at me in the hallway would stay etched in my mind forever…

In 2013, Deborah Miller-Smith wrote this story for Kids in Birmingham 1963.