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The Nation

A Revamped Cole Returns to Its Home Port

April 26, 2002|From Associated Press

NORFOLK, Va. — The U.S. destroyer Cole returned to its home port Thursday a stronger, better ship than when a terrorist bomb ripped it open and killed 17 of its sailors a year and a half ago in Yemen.

The Cole underwent $250 million in repairs over 14 months at Northrop Grumman's Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., then began the trip to Norfolk Naval Station last week.

A steady rain fell as several hundred people waited under tents in a parking lot at the base. As the ship came into view, people began waving American flags and snapping photos.

Ronald W. Francis drove five hours from his home in North Carolina to honor the memory of his daughter, Lakeina Monique Francis, 19, a mess management specialist who died in the bombing.

"My daughter is part of the ship. I want to visualize what she was doing on the ship," Francis said.

John Clodfelter, of Mechanicsville, Va., father of slain hull technician Kenneth Clodfelter, 21, went to Mississippi to see the ship depart and drove to Norfolk to see it dock.

"It's important that the Cole comes back. I want very much to let those people that did this know that they haven't gotten away with it," said Clodfelter, fighting tears.

U.S. officials blame Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network for the Sept. 11 attacks and the Cole blast, carried out by terrorists who pulled an explosives-laden skiff alongside the destroyer as it refueled on Oct. 12, 2000.

The Navy invited more than 600 service members, former Cole sailors and relatives of the slain sailors to welcome the ship.

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