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USS Cole relaunched with little fanfare

PASCAGOULA, Mississippi (CNN) -- In a symbolic message of the nation's "resolve to fight back," the destroyer USS Cole was afloat again Sunday after a terrorist attack that killed 17 sailors.

With little fanfare, the Cole was put back into the water early Friday and towed a short distance to a mooring at Ingalls Shipbuilding in southern Mississippi.

The destroyer's engines were not started, but it was a powerful message for the U.S. Navy following Tuesday's terrorist strikes on New York and Washington.

"There's a clear example of resolve in this country to fight back," Sen. John Warner, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Sunday.

The 505-foot guided missile destroyer has undergone extensive renovation since the October 12, 2000, bombing that killed 17 of its crew and wounded 39. The ship is not scheduled to return to its home port at Norfolk, Virginia, until April 2002.

Two suicide bombers pulled alongside the vessel during a port call in Aden, Yemen, and detonated explosives that blew a 40-foot hole in its side.

"She really looks good to be back in the water," Chief Gunner's Mate Norman Larson told CNN. "My personal opinion is [it's a sign that] we're coming back."

Larson had gone to the ship's mess for lunch, saw a long food line and turned back, returning to an office to do paperwork when the terrorists struck. Many of his shipmates were killed in the mess hall.

"I think about them every day -- several times a day sometimes," Larson said.

Larson said U.S. service members are appreciative of the support given them throughout the country and ready to defend the nation when called.

"We look forward to serving America again at sea," the 25-year Navy veteran said.

Meanwhile, sources have told CNN that two of the suspected hijackers who crashed a jetliner into the Pentagon on Tuesday were under surveillance of U.S. intelligence and were associates of Osama bin Laden.

One of the hijackers was seen on surveillance tape last year in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, meeting with a man suspected in the bombing of the Cole, one official said.

Larson said he wished the United States had struck back soon after last year's attack on his ship. Now, he and other American personnel are preparing for battle.

"It's time to stop talking and take some action," he said. "That's the way I feel. I'd like to get over there and take care of business."

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