NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Family, friends and crew members — past and present — gathered beside the water Saturday morning at Naval Station Norfolk to honor 17 fallen heroes.
Nineteen years ago, terrorists attacked the Norfolk-based USS Cole, killing 17 American sailors and injuring 39 others.
“Everyone sprung into action make sure we were accounting for ship mates making sure we were saving the lives we could,” recalled Captain Mikal Phillips.
Phillips, the ceremony’s guest speaker, was on the USS Cole when the explosion happened. He says it changed his life forever.
“I went to my state room back after to check emails, and as soon as I sat down that is when the bomb went off, so when I think about this day having a vivid memory of being in contact with those who lost their lives knowing all they wanted to do was be the best sailors they could be it has guided my service,” said Phillips.
Bells rang honoring each sailor and the ultimate sacrifice they gave in the name of freedom.
Among those gathered around was Alexandria Neice who’s godfather, Kevin Rux, was one of the 17 lives lost.
“I remember being at school and then my mom getting me from school she’s like there’s an accident and I saw it all over the news,” Neice cried.
Although time goes on, she comes back to this ceremony ever year — a reminder that nearly two decades later those heroes never fade away.
“Even though we lost 17, and they’re not physically here, they’re still like mentally and emotionally here with us so even though we go on with our day we wont forget ever ,” Neice said.