Remembering the attack on USS Cole 17 years later

**FILE** This image provided by the U.S. Marine Corps shows the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Cole as it is towed from the port city of Aden, Yemen, into open sea by the Military Sealift Command ocean-going tug USNS Catawba, Oct. 29, 2000. A bomb struck USS Cole Oct. 12, killing 17 crewmembers. The USS Cole is scheduled to return to the Middle East before June 9, 2006, to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will be the first time since the guided-missile destroyer was attacked in Yemen.(AP Photo/U.S.M.C., Sgt. Don L. Maes, File)

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Family and friends along with service members, past and present, gathered at the USS Cole Memorial Thursday morning for a remembrance ceremony.

Seventeen years ago 17 sailors lost their lives on board the USS Cole and 37 were injured.

Members of al-Qaeda attacked the Norfolk based Navy destroyer while it was refueling in Yemen on Oct. 12, 2000.  They used a small vessel posing as a trash barge to close in on the ship and detonat an IED, ripping a hole in the side of the ship.

Seventeen bells tolled on Thursday as each sailor’s name was read aloud.

Ronald Francis, who lost his daughter Lakeina Francis told WAVY.com, “It’s not 17 years, it’s every year in our hearts its like yesterday.”

The pain still so fresh for Francis he talks about his daughter Lakeina in the present tense, “She likes to tell jokes, she likes to help other people,” he said.

Mona Gunn, who lost her son, Cheron Gunn, also attended the service. “It means so much that my son and his 16 shipmates will never be forgotten.”

Nor will her husband, Lou Gunn. He fought for years after the attack to see those responsible brought to justice.

“It’s been a difficult week not having him here but he’s up there with his son now,” Mona told WAVY.

The accused mastermind of the Cole bombing still faces a death penalty trial. Abd al Rahim al Nashiri is being held a war prisoner at Guantanamo Bay.

The USS Cole recently returned from a highly successful deployment to the U.S. Fifth Fleet area of operation. This was the second time Cole operated in the area since the 2000 terrorist attack.