Monday, June 20, 2005

Mississippi Drama: "It Hit Me ... They Were Dead"

Mississippi Drama: Widow Tells Jury, "It Hit Me ... They Were Dead"
By John F. Sugg
t r u t h o u t | Report

Monday 29 June 2005
...from riveting testimony by Rita Schwerner Bender, the 63-year-old widow of one of three civil rights workers murdered in 1964 in Philadelphia, Mississippi.....

"At 3 or 4 in the morning, he got up, kissed me goodbye and left," Bender recalled. "That was the very last time I saw him alive." Mickey Schwerner, back in Mississippi, was joined by Cheney and a newcomer to the Freedom Summer, Andrew "Andy" Goodman.

In the middle of the night of June 21-22, Bender was awakened to take a phone call. "I learned Mickey had never returned to Meridian," she said. Calls to the local police and hospital met with silence. Despite likely danger to herself, Bender returned to Mississippi.

Forty-four days later, fears became reality. "I remember that day," she said. "The burned station wagon was found (by the FBI) in the Bogue Chitto Swamp. ... It really hit me for the first time that they were dead. There was no realistic possibility they were alive."

Bender paused in her narrative. She breathed deeply, cupped her hands around her face, gave a small shake to her head and continued: "I cried. (With civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer at the Cincinnati airport), we went to a bench, put our heads together, and our tears mingled."

Another pause, and then: "I wanted to see that burned out car. I absolutely insisted. It was in a garage, up on blocks. Outside, the paint was blistered, the inside was burned out."...