Navy, Families Mark 15th Anniversary of Attack on USS Cole

Port side view showing the damage sustained by the USS Cole on Oct. 12, 2000, after a terrorist bomb exploded during a refueling operation in the port of Aden, Yemen. DoD photo.
Port side view showing the damage sustained by the USS Cole on Oct. 12, 2000, after a terrorist bomb exploded during a refueling operation in the port of Aden, Yemen. DoD photo.

NORFOLK, Va. -- It's been a decade since Olivia Rux attended a memorial ceremony for her husband Kevin and the 16 other sailors who were killed in a 2000 terrorist attack on the USS Cole while it was in port in Yemen.

But as the Navy marked the 15th anniversary of the attack on Monday, she felt it was time to return to the Cole's home port at Naval Station Norfolk.

"I felt like I needed to see the families again. I felt the urgency to be around them to hug them, to feel their loss with them," said Rux, who lives on a ranch outside of San Antonio, Texas.

The Navy held a brief ceremony that included a roll call of the sailors, a 21-gun salute and the playing of "Taps." Many family members fought back tears throughout the ceremony, which was held on the waterfront in a grove of 28 black pine trees that represented the 17 victims and their 11 children.

Unlike the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, many family and friends of the victims fear the attack on the Cole is fading from the national consciousness. The large memorial ceremonies and extensive media coverage of the attack on the Cole have long since faded.

"When stuff is right in your face on a regular basis, people remember. But when it's not -- how quickly we forget," said Marcia Hamilton of Statesville, North Carolina. Her goddaughter Lekeina Francis was killed in the attack.

The Cole was attacked by suicide bombers while refueling in the port of Aden. The explosion blew a 40-by-40-foot hole in the hull of the ship and injured 39 people.

"Throughout the course of history there are events that change the world in which we live - the attack on Cole was one of them," said Cmdr. James Quaresimo, the current commanding officer of USS Cole.

The Navy revamped its security procedures following the attack and has been working to make its ships more energy efficient so they spend less time refueling. That's when they're especially vulnerable to attack.

Rodney Jackson was on the ship when it was attacked and described that morning as overwhelming. He said he knew every victim and that it's important that the nation doesn't forget their deaths preceded those on lost on Sept. 11.

"It's just a smaller amount of people that were lost, but the lives are still impacted to this day," said Jackson, who retired to Jacksonville, Florida.

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