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Saturday, October 13, 2001

One year later, memorial to fallen
USS Cole sailors is dedicated

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Petty Officer 1st Class Angel Tate, 29, stationed at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., wipes away a tear during the playing of   "Taps" at the USS Cole memorial dedication service.


"It’s a word that is now part of our daily vocabulary," Rear Adm. John Foley III, commander of Naval Surface Force for the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, said Friday during a service dedicating a memorial to the fallen 17 sailors of the USS Cole.

There’s little doubt that the perpetrators of the Cole bombing — which happened a year ago to the day of the memorial dedication — are the same who killed thousands in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in Washington and New York, he said.

"These terrorists’ attacks will never be forgotten, but they will not deter us," Foley said to the throngs of people who gathered on a warm fall day to remember and honor the dead.

Along the shores of the Elizabeth River in Norfolk sits the memorial of 17 granite slabs, one for each of the U.S. Navy sailors killed as the Cole refueled in the Aden Port in Yemen. Thirty-seven sailors were wounded.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Johnnie Smith, 24, was on the Cole then, and in Norfolk on Friday — right where he should be, he said.

"I wouldn’t feel right not being here today," he said. "I felt like it was a requirement. Like I should be here. I would have felt bad if I missed it."

Daily, he sees his beloved Cole as it sits next to the USS Bulkley, now under construction at the docks of Pascagoula, Miss.

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Johnathan Washak, 8, views the name of one of the sailors killed during the attack on the USS Cole one year ago. Johnathan's father knew and  had once worked with Chief Electronics Technician Richard Costelow.

Though the Cole now is out of dry dock, it still is not sea-ready. It is expected to re-deploy in the spring — and possibly join the war against terrorism to ferret out the attackers who originally damaged the destroyer.

The memorial is full of symbolism. The low-level markers stand for the youthfulness of the sailors, whose lives were cut short. The three raised granite bands stand for the three colors of the American flag. Markers that encircle the memorial are brown because of the darkness and despair that overcame the ship. The 28 black pine trees represent the 17 sailors and the 11 children they left behind.

Daisaan McDaniels is one of those children.

The 7-month-old boy will never know his father, 19-year-old Seaman James McDaniels, an information systems technician on the Cole.

"It’s a year today that he’s gone and now we have to go through this all again," said Bernardine Wilson, the sailor’s godmother.

She’s confident the attack on the Cole and the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington are linked.

"The Cole was a message to let us know we were weak and they could get closer," she said. "It was our wake-up call — and they got closer."

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A wreath of flowers is placed at the memorial to the fallen USS Cole sailors during the dedication ceremony.

More than 3,000 individuals, organizations and businesses donated funds for both the memorial and aid to help the grieving families. Funds have been set up for each of the 11 children to help them pursue college, said retired Rear Adm. John Dalrymple, executive vice president of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.

Sherman Saunders, whose cousin, Timothy Saunders, 32, was killed in the attack, came to Friday’s dedication with two feelings brewing in him.

"I am glad that America has not forgot its heroes," said the Danville, Va., resident. "But at the same time, I think it’s sad it has taken this much time to get serious about stomping out hate in this world."

With time has come an acceptance for the families, said Capt. James Pope, a base chaplain and director for operational ministries for the Atlantic Fleet.

"Time’s a healer and that’s what [the families] are experiencing," Pope said.

He spent Thursday night and Friday morning with several family members gathering in Norfolk for the dedication of a memorial to the fallen sailors of the USS Cole, killed a year ago during a terrorist attack.

"Sometimes there was laughter as they shared stories of their loved ones," Pope said of the family meetings. "That’s always a hopeful sign after the death of someone you love."

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