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A recent assignment in English gave Hoover High School senior, Zach Wunderly, the opportunity to shine. His oral presentation required he offer an experience that constituted a personal epiphany. Zach chose to discuss his trip to Selma, Alabama in March of 2007 to commemorate Bloody Sunday. The march earned the name “Bloody Sunday” because of the violent attack on demonstrators by local policemen and state troopers at the Edmund Pettis Bridge, just six blocks away from where the march started. Georgia Congressman, John Lewis (seen on the right with Presidential candidate, Hilary Clinton) came for the original March on March 7, 1965. Lewis was lucky to come away from the march alive given troopers have fractured and bloodied his skull during their attack on peaceful demonstrators. Two days later, on March 9, civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a ceremonial march to the bridge, where participants gathered for a prayer and returned back to the city. The March 7th gathering was originally supposed to end in Montgomery, Alabama.
Lewis is one of the heroes of the civil rights movement. Lewis returns each year to remember the Bloody Sunday anniversary. This year, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were there, too.
Zach reported to his class how everyone met at the Brown Chapel. The church overflowed with hundreds, maybe thousands, outside listening to the services.
Once services broke, several well known people address the crowds waiting outside while organizers began lining up for the March to the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Barack Obama and Al Sharpton both rallied the demonstrators with inspiring speeches about where we’ve been and how far we have come and how we haven’t come far enough. President Clinton ran late; so, the speeches ran long. When America’s 42nd President finally arrived, he was treated like nothing less than a rock star. Crowds literally ran toward him. It was a nightmare for the half a dozen secret service agents there protecting him. Zach’s little brother, Sam, with the help of stepdad, Paul, touched the President’s sleeve trying for a handshake.
copy-of-p1010045.jpg Ladies, especially older ladies, swooned as Clinton and his group pushed their way to the front of the march. Finally, things began to move ever so slowly. A woman with a powerful voice began a round of Amens. Zach’s Muslim friend, Umar, also from Hoover High School joined in the rousing chorus.
Selma looks like a ghost town in some parts with its boarded store fronts and dilapidated homes, but on March 7, 2007 it was very much alive.
Once rounding a corner through downtown Selma the approach to the bridge was in sight. Thousands of heads and the steel arcs that span the Alabama River were in view. Zach noted in his report that he was touched that 42 years after the fact so many people would reunite to remember tragedy, to remember that some things are worth fighting for…things like freedom and justice.

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9 thoughts on “Going the Distance

  1. It really was a moving experience for our family. I had my 10-year-old son on my shoulder yelling “Obama! Obama!” trying to get the senator’s attention, and a woman next to us burst into tears. She told us she was a history teacher and she never thought she’d ever see the day where a little white boy would be cheering on a black man for the President of the United States of America.

  2. Although I was born 4 years after the assassination of Dr. King I have found myself being influenced a lot by him and so many others who actively participated in the Civil Rights Movement. This demonstration in Selma was symbolic and heroic. I wouldn’t be able to vote if it wasn’t for this and other demonstrations.

    Thanks for the story.

  3. Thanks for reading, Tim. I had the opportunity to teach an ethics course that allowed me to include Dr. King in the course curriculum. Students (these were college freshman) tend to split down conservative/liberal lines in an ethics setting, but a discussion on King always got the classes on the same moral page; plus, they were so hungry to take in his life, his methods. That was in Arizona.

    My daughter told me a disconcerting story last night. Her history professor asked her class how many people are feminists. She was 1 in 5 out of a class of 100 who raised her hand. Then the instructor asked how many people were pro-civil rights. Only a few more people raised their hands. She’s at an urban university! That’s enough to make you weep in a city that calls itself the birthplace of civil rights, Birmingham. There’s a small monument to MLK at the Birmingham Airport with the quote:

    “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

    That’s the vision that needs to catch on now.

  4. Pingback: Obama: a Great Communicator plus « WriteChic Press

  5. Pingback: Ex KKK Gains Forgiveness From Lewis « WriteChic Press

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