She's proud of how her sister's memory is kept alive. Three learning centers in Chicago bear her name. Carole Robertson Day is observed each year by chapters of Jack and Jill of America, a national organization their mother helped lead that exists to empower youth.
Her big regret is not being able to know her sister as an adult. Back when Carole was her "bratty little sister," a five-year age gap seemed significant. Today, she knows it wouldn't have meant a thing.
One victim, two perspectives
Fate Morris, a 61-year-old disabled veteran, moves carefully. His speech is slightly off, the right side of his body partially paralyzed, the result of a stroke he had after open-heart surgery 10 years ago.
He was the baby in a family of eight children, being raised by a struggling single mother, when his sister Cynthia went to live with the Wesleys. She was smart and brimming with potential; the Wesleys -- both educators who couldn't have children of their own -- were able to nurture her in a way their mother couldn't.
"They fell in love with her and could send her to better schools," he says. "We missed her a lot, but we all knew it was for the best." She did come home on weekends, though, returning to the Wesleys on Sundays, he says. To him, she never stopped being a Morris.
In his mind, she was 10 or 11 when she left. As proof, he points to a portrait of her in a dress made by their mother; he says the picture was taken when Cynthia was 9. But others -- including childhood friends who only knew her as a Wesley -- have always said she was about 6. Figuring out who's right, when relatives say no formal adoption was ever processed, would be hard to do.
Memory can be a brutal weapon, and it has haunted and beaten up Fate ever since Cynthia died.
He was 11 and at home, three blocks away from the church, when he heard and felt the explosion. He came down the street to find an angry crowd, yelling at police who had gathered outside. With a 14-year-old friend, he says, he began helping remove debris.
"Someone said, 'I got another body over here,'" he remembers, as tears start to fall. "Then the last thing I heard was, 'I got a body over here, but she has no head.'"
That was Cynthia.
"I didn't know she went to 16th Street Baptist Church until the day she was found," he says.
Every day at about 4 a.m., for 50 years, Fate says he's wept remembering that moment and how he responded. He ran away. He couldn't stay. And he can't forgive himself for it.
"I wasn't there for her," he sobs in his dark-paneled home just outside Birmingham. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. My friend said 'You should've stayed,' and I didn't stay. I left her buried. Fifty years I've been living with this. ... What could I have done for her? I left her. I knew she was gone, but what bothered me is I left her."
This was a secret he kept for years. He never told his mother he was there that day.
Fate cries openly like no other surviving sibling seems to do. He guesses this is because of the guilt he says he carries. He says he never got help to deal with the emotions that overcome him. He tried, saying he met with psychiatrists, but says they didn't believe his story. He blames the ignorance of young doctors who didn't understand what was going on at that time.
Cynthia's funeral, the one that was held for three of the four girls, included a eulogy by King. Fate says his family stood near the back as the Wesleys took their place by the casket of his sister who shared their name.
"We had to virtually hold my mother up," he remembers.
As the years went on and Cynthia Wesley was mentioned in the media, he says he asked his mother if hearing that name bothered her. She told him it did. He asked if she wanted to do anything about it. She said, "No. I don't want to drag her name through the mud."
But his mother died in 1988, and Fate, who says he's the only surviving Morris sibling, helped wage battles she never did. He says he hired a lawyer to prove that Cynthia had never been adopted. He points to copies of her birth certificate and an amendment to her death certificate, certified in 2002, that lists Cynthia's birth name and birth parents.
At one point, he says, he hoped for restitution for her death, but today he believes if it was going to come, it should have happened long ago.
For now, he says, he'd be happy to see his sister's name changed to Morris in history books, on historic markers and on her grave.
"I know it would make my mother happy," he says. "And it might give me peace of mind."
Fate's struggle is one Shirley Wesley King, 63, feels compassion for, but she's been where Cynthia was and has a different view.
There's a long history of informal adoptions in the black community, she explains. That is how both she and Cynthia became Wesleys, though Shirley would join the family in 1964, after Cynthia was gone.