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Ordinary and Extraordinary

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When I lived in Birmingham, Alabama in the late 1980s, I had a friend named Libby. She had one son and made a living painting houses. She seemed to be an ordinary person living an ordinary life. But what many did not know is that she was actually an ordinary person who chose to live an extraordinary life.

Libby was 23 years old when her uncle and three other Ku Klux Klansmen  and segregationist planted at least 15 sticks of dynamite beneath the front steps of the African-American 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. The bombing on Sunday, September 15, 1963, was an act of white supremacist terrorism.  Although in 1965 the FBI concluded the church bombing had been committed by four known Klansmen, no prosecutions ensued until 1977, when Robert Chambliss was tried and convicted of first degree murder of one of the victims. My friend Elizabeth (Libby) H. Cobb, was star witness for the prosecution against her uncle, who was convicted, in large part, as a result of her testimony. After the trial, threats and harassment from Ku Klux Klan members and others forced Libby and her son to leave Birmingham for several years.

Dictionary.com defines courage – the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., with bravery.

I cannot tell you my friend Libby was not afraid to testify, to expose her uncle for his part in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and the many other atrocities he committed. In fact, on several occasions she shared with me how afraid she was to do what she chose to do. However, she did not let fear stop her from standing up to courageously do the right thing.

You and I are surrounded by every-day heroes. People who refuse to allow fear, evil, injustice, hate, to have the upper hand. People of courage who stand up for what is right because it is the right thing to do. Brave people who show us how to live an ordinary life in an extraordinarily courageous way.