- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2000

NORFOLK More than 15,000 mourners gathered at Pier 12 at the naval base here yesterday to pay homage to the 17 sailors lost in last week's attack on the USS Cole.

In a short speech open only to the families of the Cole's crew, civil servants and other military personnel, President Clinton told the crowd that those who were killed or injured never will be forgotten.

"To all they have given us, we must give them their meaning," Mr. Clinton said, looking directly at the relatives of the dead and missing sailors.

Mr. Clinton also said the United States will hunt down the terrorists who attacked the destroyer.

"You will not find a safe harbor, for we will find you, and justice will prevail," Mr. Clinton said.

In the invocation, Rear Adm. Barry C. Black, chief of chaplains, asked for God to shed light on the darkness and sorrow in the families' lives.

"Give a sense of comradeship to this act of inhumanity," Adm. Black said.

Thirty-six of the 39 sailors injured in last Thursday's blast made their way through the crowd to sit with family members.

Some with scrapes and bruises and an occasional bandage walked with ease to embrace loved ones. Others came out on crutches or walked with canes. Each was greeted with a round of applause.

Seven sailors with more serious injuries were carried on stretchers from ambulances and welcomed with a standing ovation.

One sailor who was hooked up to oxygen, a heart monitor and intravenous drip wore a blue USS Cole cap. Another wore his dress whites, complete with black-brimmed cap and Navy insignia.

The 17 sailors died when a rubber dinghy believed to be filled with explosives ripped a hole in the Cole as it stopped to refueled off the coast of Yemen.

Yesterday, the remains of three sailors who died were released from a military mortuary in Dover, Del., and began the journey to families' homes.

The remains of eight other sailors were expected to arrive at Dover Air Force Base today. Five bodies arrived there Saturday. The mortuary was preparing the bodies of two others.

Four more remained trapped in the damaged part of the guided-missile destroyer.

"For our tomorrow, they gave their today," said Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "Last week we lost a part of America, a part of ourselves."

Those who died gave their lives for freedom, he said.

"They are now and forever more part of a family of patriots. They clearly answered their call to duty," said Gen. Shelton, who then echoed the president's warning: "Those who perpetrated this act of terrorism should never forget America's memory is long and our reach longer."

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said, "No one should pass by an American in uniform without saying, 'Thank you.' "

Also attending were congressmen from states that were home to lost or injured sailors, Attorney General Janet Reno, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Clintons' daughter, Chelsea.

Two other destroyers, the USS Ross and USS McFaul, flanked the stage where Mr. Clinton and other dignitaries spoke. Behind the more than 3,000 seats set aside for the families and injured crew was the carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. Sailors from all three ships lined the railings.

Cries from young widows and mothers who lost sons could be heard as a sailor played taps from the bow of the McFaul.

Mr. Clinton who met privately with each family about two hours prior to his arrival at the pier said that in reading the names of the sailors, he understood these were men and women whose lives and dreams were cut short.

John Clodfelter, father of one of the missing, Hull Technician 3rd Class Kenneth Eugene Clodfelter, rose from his front-row seat to address Mr. Clinton after his speech.

Mr. Clodfelter later said he had told the president, "[When] those who are responsible are punished, say these words: 'Remember the Cole.' "

The president mouthed "Thank you" to Mr. Clodfelter and saluted.

Theirs is a military family, Mr. Clodfelter said, and until the Navy tells him otherwise, he holds out hope that his son is alive.

"I'm not giving up on my son," Mr. Clodfelter said, noting his anger hasn't subsided. "Them people are going to regret that they touched the Cole."

Family members, wearing black and yellow ribbons, said the service provided some level of comfort, but nothing, they said, will erase the hurt.

"He was doing something for his country," Zola Saunders said of her cousin, Operations Specialist 2nd Class Timothy L. Saunders, 32.

Ms. Saunders said her cousin, an 11-year veteran, was making the Navy his career.

Seth Vancour came to be with the family of his best friend, Seaman Recruit Craig B. Wibberley of Williamsport, Md.

"It's because I love him," Mr. Vancour said. "I couldn't stop thinking about him."

Mr. Vancour and a cousin of Seaman Wibberley, Aaron Wibberley, said they were proud to have known and been a friend to the 19-year-old sailor, who had graduated from high school in June 1999 and enlisted the next month.

Later in the afternoon, about 200 attended a public memorial service at High Street Landing in Portsmouth.

"They just want to come out and support the Cole," city official Sheila Pittman said. "This week was a reality check for all of us, that people are willing to die."

A demonstration by Navy SEALs and a concert, previously scheduled as part of Fleet Week activities, followed the brief ceremony.

"Last Thursday, the world stopped and Americans were reminded of the price of freedom," Portsmouth Mayor James Holley said.

The spirits of his city and the Navy remain high, the mayor said, and no act of terror could change that.

"It's definitely sobering," said Delia Cartier, 25, of Anchorage, Alaska, who was visiting her hometown with fiance James Jones. "[The area] has been more supportive, and there is more of a concern for the families."

As each name of the dead and missing was read, a bell tolled.

Rear Adm. Clinton E. Adams, commander of the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, said the Navy family is pulling through because of the towns they call home Norfolk and Portsmouth.

"You don't know how important it is to have a community that loves its military. We, the military, need to be loved," he said.

The House and Senate passed resolutions yesterday honoring the USS Cole's crew and condemning the attackers.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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