The father of a USS Cole bombing victim said Monday that the death of his son and others aboard the destroyer shouldn't be forgotten amid nationwide jubilation over the death of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
“Everyone is all about 9/11. You have a lot more people who were killed,” said John Clodfelter of Mechanicsville, Va.
In few places is that remembered more than in Virginia, where the USS Cole was home ported at Naval Station Norfolk. A memorial on the world's largest Naval base is built from 17 granite slabs to symbolize the sailors who died, surrounded by 28 black pine trees to represent those sailors plus the 11 children they left behind.
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., noted the Cole bombing among other terrorist attacks orchestrated by bin Laden in a statement issued Monday.
“His death does not mean that the threat posed by terrorism to our nation has passed. We must remain vigilant,” Warner said. “But bin Laden's death does provide a sense of justice, and hopefully a measure of comfort, for those who have given so much in America's fight against international terrorism.”
Clodfelter's son, Kenneth, was among those who died Oct. 12, 2000, when the guided-missile destroyer was bombed while on a refueling stop in Yemen. The attack also injured 42 other sailors and tore a massive hole in the ship's side. The ship was repaired and returned to service in 2002.
In addition to the hijacking of four U.S. airliners and crashing them into New York City's World Trade Centers, the Pentagon and a rural Pennsylvania field, bin Laden's al-Qaida organization has also been blamed for the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa that killed 224 people.
Clodfelter said his family is relieved that bin Laden is dead, but frustrated that it took so long.
Clodfelter learned about bin Laden's death early Monday morning after being woken from a sleep study by a nurse. His wife -- who had been moved to tears while watching the news Sunday night -- had left him several messages throughout the night.
“She was so emotional,” he said. “This is one of things we wanted to happen. She was so elated -- after she got through all the crying.”
He said he found it appropriate that it was a team of Navy SEALs who killed bin Laden. His 21-year-old son had wanted to become a SEAL at the time of his death.
The SEAL community received an outpouring of support and thanks on social networks. The Norfolk-based animal rights group People for Ethical Treatment of Animals also said it planned on sending the Virginia Beach SEAL community a gift box of vegan chocolates embossed with bin Laden's head it's calling “bin Laden Bites.”
On vacation in Virginia Beach, Bonnie Baker of Fredericksburg soaked up the sun at the oceanfront less than 100 yards from Dam Neck Annex, a seaside base where SEALs train. She said she was stunned when she turned on the news and found out what happened.
“I would have liked to been in the mind of that Navy SEAL when he pulled the trigger,” she said
The Department of Defense has ordered increased security at military bases, but the Navy declined to discuss specifics. Other service branches have noted that security has been increased at bases around the state and that there may be additional traffic as a result. Virginia State Police have also encouraged the public to report anything suspicious.
At Dam Neck Annex there was little outward sign of heightened security. Traffic flowed smoothly and there was very little activity on the beach visible to the public.
On vacation at the beach for near the facility from Ottawa, Canada, Irina Petrova said she and her friends stayed up until 4 a.m. watching the news. She said she was thrilled that Americans finally got their man and that she got to be in the U.S. when it happened.
“I think for the American people, especially for those who lost family members in 9/11, hopefully it's closure,” she said. “Finally Americans got to do something concrete about it.”