Ceremony marks 15th anniversary of USS Cole attack

NORFOLK, Va. -- The Navy is marking the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the USS Cole, which killed 17 sailors and injured dozens of others.

A small ceremony was held Monday near a memorial to the victims at Naval Station Norfolk, where the destroyer is home ported.

Dozens of family members and friends of the victims attended the ceremony in a grove along the base's waterfront. Many who attended say it is important that the nation doesn't forget that there was a terrorist attack that killed Americans before the Sept. 11 attacks. Some say they fear that as time passes the nation will forget the sacrifices that were made.

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395786 08: Family members create stencil rubbings of U.S. sailor's names killed during the USS Cole terrorist attack in Yemen after memorial services at Norfolk Naval Base October 12, 2001 in Norfolk, VA. (Photo by Gary C. Knapp/Getty Images) Gary Knapp, Getty Images

Many family members cried as victims' names were called out and the song "Taps" was played.

On Oct. 12, 2000, al Qaeda suicide bombers steered an explosives-laden boat into the Cole, a guided-missile destroyer, as it sat in a Yemen port on a fuel stop. A 40-foot hole was ripped into the side of the ship.

The Cole itself was deployed again in November 2003, and returned to the Middle East three years later.

Al Qaeda's attack on the Cole wasn't its first attempt. An FBI investigation revealed that on January 3, 2000, militants in Yemen tried to bomb another U.S. Navy ship, the USS The Sullivans.

In that earlier attempt, the militants' boat was so overloaded with explosives that it sank. The boat and explosives were salvaged, and the boat refitted and reused in the Cole attack.

In 2007 family members of the 17 sailors killed won $13 million in damages and interest from Sudan, which a U.S. court had found allowed al Qaeda suicide bombers to fulfill their attack plans. Though Sudan denied responsibility and refused to pay, the award was eventually paid from Sudanese assets frozen by the U.S. government.