Families remember USS Cole 10 years later

By Hugh Lessig
Tuesday, October 12, 2010; 11:16 PM

NORFOLK - Norm Larson, who survived the attack on the USS Cole 10 years ago, cried openly Tuesday as his right arm snapped up in salute. Moments later, he was smiling with friends.

It was that kind of day at Naval Station Norfolk.

Navy brass and sailors joined with the extended family of the USS Cole to mark the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attack, which killed 17 of the ship's crew as it was docked in Yemen.

Under a cloudless sky, they gathered at the USS Cole Memorial, built from 17 granite slabs to symbolize the sailors who died. The memorial is surrounded by 28 black pines to represent those sailors and the 11 children they left behind.

The memorial is a testament to the importance the Navy attaches to Oct. 12, 2000. The oft-heard phrase Tuesday was "10/12 happened before 9/11," signifying when the Navy's war on terror began.

"For many, the pain has not begun to subside," said Adm. J.C. Harvey Jr., the commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command. "Sadly, it probably never will."

That pain was etched on the face of Larson as the ceremony climaxed with the laying of a wreath at the memorial. He served as a chief gunner's mate on the Cole during the attack, and the day was an important milestone for him. The day should be important for the country, too, but the newspapers back in his home town didn't note the anniversary.

"I hope people don't forget it," he said. "It's so easy to blow it off."

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) marked the anniversary by encouraging Virginians to always remember those who serve and those who have lost their lives defending the nation.

"Their loss will never go away," McDonnell said in a statement. "Neither will our love for them, and our commitment to finding and destroying the evil forces who perpetrated this cowardly act."

- Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)

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