USS Cole memorial dedicated at destroyer's Va. home port, a year after 17 died in bombing

Friday, October 12th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) _ With a promise never to forget, the Navy dedicated a monument Friday to the 17 sailors killed in the bombing of the USS Cole exactly one year ago.

``Today, we honor 17 American heroes at this beautiful site that will forever carry their names,'' Rear Adm. John B. Foley III, commander of the Atlantic Fleet's surface forces, told about 1,000 Cole crew members and relatives who gathered at the Norfolk Naval Station.

The monument, a 10-foot monolith encircled by 17 granite slabs, was placed on a site overlooking Willoughby Bay _ where ships leaving and returning from sea pass by.

With the bombing of the Norfolk-based destroyer in Yemen on Oct. 12, 2000, and the terrorist attacks last month, Foley said that terrorism is ``a word that is now part of our daily vocabulary.''

``These terrorist attacks will never be forgotten, but nor will they deter us,'' he said.

And to those who lost loved ones on the Cole, Foley said: ``You are not alone. We cannot help ease your pain, but our country and our Navy will stand by you.''

The ceremony at the Norfolk Naval Station included a 21-gun salute and a final roll call for the victims. A bell rang after the name, age and hometown of each sailor was read.

Sherman Saunders lost his cousin Timothy Saunders in the blast.

``The more we remember, the less likely we will become complacent, the less likely we will be less alert, the less likely this kind of thing will happen again,'' said Saunders, himself an Army veteran.

The monument also pays tribute to the 37 sailors injured in the attack and the crew members who saved the ship from sinking after the attackers maneuvered a skiff alongside it and detonated the explosives.

U.S. officials believe Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network is behind both the bombing of the Cole and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Monument designer John Blackburn, a landscape architect with the Navy's worldwide engineering corps, took input from some of the Cole's crew in developing his design.

A 10-foot pillar of mahogany granite is the centerpiece, and the names of those who died are inscribed on two bronze plaques. Japanese black pines were planted at the site, one for each of the 17 sailors killed and each of the 11 children they left behind.

Donations paid for the $143,000 project.

The Cole is being repaired in at a shipyard in Mississippi. It is expected to return to Norfolk next spring.