And then in direct response to the Governor's defiance, a federal court ordered desegregation to proceed in Little Rock. September 23 was to be the first day of integration. That morning a large group of angry citizens assembled outside Central High School. And then, an eruption took place . The Associated Press reported it this way: "It was exactly like an explosion, a human explosion. At 8:35 a.m., the people standing in front of the high school looked like the ones you see every day in a shopping center. Five minutes later, at 8:40, they were a mobthe terrifying spectacle of 200-odd individuals, suddenly welded together into a single body, took place in the barest fraction of a second. It was an explosion, savagery chain-reacting from person to person, fusing them into a white-hot mass."
Melba Pattillo later wrote about her experience. She said, "The first day I was able to enter Central High School, what I felt inside was terrible, wrenching, awful fear. On the car radio I could hear that there was a mob. I knew that the sounds that came from the crowd were very angry. So we entered the side of the building, very, very fast. Even as we entered there were people running after us, people tripping other people ."
With the mob vowing to lynch the young blacks, local police stepped in and removed the students from the building. Integration in Little Rock had lasted just part of a morning.