It was early Thanksgiving morning, before daylight. 1971.

Across the country, families were in bed asleep, dreaming of the food and festivities that the next morning would bring. The case was no different for Reverend J.D. Jackson’s family in Rochester, NY — at first.

Then the call came.

Rev. Jackson answered the phone. Mt. Vernon Baptist Church at 351 Joseph Avenue — the church he pastored — had been bombed. 

"He said to me, 'I have to go to church. The church has been bombed,'" his wife, Josetta Jackson, remembered, 50 years later.

She refused to let her husband go alone, not knowing what would be waiting for him. She got their children, ages 4 and 5, together carrying along their bed pillows. She loaded them into the car and the family headed to the church.

There was a swarm of police cars and fire trucks. An officer stopped the family and, after identifying him, told Rev. Jackson that he would have to get into a police car to ride further and see the damage. He had to leave his wife and children in their car, nervously waiting.

Read more: Rochester Democrat & Chronicle