Washington Post 'reports' below.
The last para is enough to make me puke.
Talk about patriotic B.S.
How do they do a 'report'
like this and not ask
'I Just Didn't Want to Die on the Ship'
By Steve Vogel
The boat speeding toward the USS Cole caught Seaman Raymond Mooney's eye, interrupting his reveries in the sweltering heat. But the small craft slowed as it approached the Navy destroyer, and Mooney relaxed when the two men on board waved to him. A garbage scow, he thought, coming to carry away trash.
He waved back.
Standing watch on the deck of the Cole, the 20-year-old sailor's task was to make sure no fuel spilled as the warship refueled in Yemen on Oct. 12. He was unarmed, and he did not radio a warning to the bridge.
"There were all kinds of boats, it's a busy harbor," Mooney said in an interview. "One getting close to you was not unusual."
Eyewitness accounts of the explosion and its immediate aftermath, gathered from sailors who have returned to the United States to recover from their injuries, indicate that the Cole had a good, experienced crew but was unprepared for the apparent terrorist attack that killed 17 sailors and wounded 39 others.
Several crew members said they had been concerned about entering Middle Eastern ports but were told of no particular risk in Yemen. "We're at the mercy of people in Washington making those decisions" about where to refuel, said Chief Petty Officer Keith Lorensen of Chesapeake.
Members of the Cole's crew also said that, to the best of their knowledge, no special measures were taken to protect the ship during the refueling, other than posting armed sailors to patrol the deck.
Unauthorized boats "aren't supposed to get that close to us," said Fireman Apprentice Andrew Nemeth. "We usually trust people."
While perhaps insufficiently wary, the crew of the Cole clearly did not lack courage or resolve. After the small boat with two unidentified passengers blew a 40- by 40-foot hole in the destroyer's side, sailors fought heroically through smoke, seawater and twisted metal to save not only themselves, but also their crew mates and their ship.
The 505-foot destroyer was heading to the Persian Gulf to enforce sanctions against Iraq. After passing through the Suez Canal and Red Sea, the Cole pulled into the port of Aden. By 9:30 a.m. local time, it had moored. Refueling began about an hour later.
The explosion at 11:18 a.m. caught the 335 crew members with no warning.
In the ship's laboratory, Petty Officer Kathy Lopez, 31, was testing the fuel being pumped aboard. It had a flash point of 300 degrees, a bit high, but adequate. Suddenly, Lopez and two co-workers, Ensign Andrew Triplett and Petty Officer Robert D. McTureous, felt the whole ship shake.
"I thought we had blown something up in the lab," she said. "The ship shook for what seemed like an eternity. I remember seeing a red flash, and just this horrible smell, and more smoke than you'd ever seen in your life."
Lopez groped for a breathing apparatus but couldn't find it. Everything was in darkness. Nothing was where it had been.
An enormous hole had opened in the hull. She and McTureous started crawling, looking to escape from the smoke and heat. Then a thought hit her. Where was Mr. Triplett?
Lopez went back to look for the officer in what had been the lab. The floor was gone, and she wasn't even sure what deck she was on. She'd lost her flashlight. She poked around blindly. As she searched for Triplett, she suffered burns to her face and arms and was almost overcome by the smoke. She realized she had to get out.
"I started crawling out with the intention of not dying on that ship," she said. "I didn't think I was going to live, but I just didn't want to die on the ship."
She made it through the hole in the hull, joining McTureous in the water. Floating, slowly becoming aware of the second-degree burns that covered 35 percent of her body, Lopez was struck with a devastating possibility.
"Me and McTureous thought we'd blown the ship up," she said.
In the chief's mess, where senior noncommissioned officers eat, Lorensen was thinking the stop in Yemen might not be so bad. The Cole had been planning an 8- to 10-hour layover, but the refueling was going fast. "We were well ahead of schedule," he recalled.
The Cole's executive officer ordered preparations to get underway. Then, Lorensen said, "we kind of hit a lull in the activity."
Some of the chief petty officers decided to watch television. "We sat down, and that was the last thing I remember," Lorensen said.
Richard Costelow, 35, was a newcomer in the chief's mess. The communications whiz had been promoted in September, as the ship sailed toward the Middle East.
As much as he loved the Navy, he was devoted to his three young boys and had been anguished at leaving his family when the ship departed from Norfolk in August. "He didn't want to go," said his wife, Sharla Costelow. "None of us wanted him to go."
Costelow had several times told his wife that he did not think he would live past 35, and before leaving his family at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, where they had recently moved, he made an odd request: "Promise me you'll take care of my boys for me, okay?"
Sharla Costelow got upset. "Why would you say something like that? As if I wouldn't?" she remembers saying.
"And he just said, 'No. . . . I don't mean it like that. It's just that . . . well, never mind, just take care of them, okay?"
"And I said . . . 'You know I will.' "
'Watch Out for Body Parts'
When Lorensen came to, he was under a table 25 feet from where he had been sitting. The walls had collapsed. Electrical cables hung in the air. Some of the chiefs were calling for help, and one who was badly injured yelled frantically.
Lorensen saw a leg lying near him in the rubble. "Watch out for body parts!" he called out. Then he realized that it was his own right leg. It had nearly been severed and was lying underneath his shoulder, with his boot next to his head.
Lorensen managed to pull off his belt and make a tourniquet. He didn't want to yell, knowing he had to conserve strength. But "I was afraid nobody would see me," he recalled.
He reached for his flashlight. It was damaged, but it worked. That light, one of his rescuers later told him, was the only reason they found him.
Petty Officer John Thompson had been called from the engine room to an 11 a.m. meeting in the aft of the ship. When the explosion hit, he thought the Cole had been struck by a missile, according to Thompson's mother, Dee Zander. Thompson worked his way back, looking for his colleagues. The engine room was devastated. Two of Thompson's closest friends were dead.
"That should have been me," he later told his mother.
In the galley, the explosion hit just as lunch was starting. Sailors standing in line were blown against a wall. Others were crushed by kitchen equipment.
Seaman Tim Eerenberg had been washing pots and pans on the port side of the ship but walked 20 feet to chat with a friend. That move may have saved his life, he said.
During the explosion, he was hit in the head by a flying object. "When I woke up, my head was ringing," he said Wednesday at a press conference in West Virginia. "Everything was black."
Fireman Apprentice Nemeth was in the food line. He never heard a sound.
"I remember being thrown up to the ceiling and . . . back down to the deck, and I am not sure what I hit my face on, but after that, it was pretty much kind of a blur," he said. Covered with soot and fuel, his face cut, he staggered out for help.
'I Was Going to Get Home'
On the main deck, the blast from the boat he'd spotted sent shrapnel into Mooney's face and burned his eyes. Swearing, he jumped to a lower deck and ran around offering assistance. "The guys were doing their best to keep the ship afloat," Mooney said.
Lorensen, who was brought to the main deck with other injured sailors, could feel the Cole listing. "We were definitely at risk of losing the ship," he said.
The water that poured into the destroyer threatened to drown some sailors but was a blessing for others, carrying them to higher decks.
Floating alongside the ship, Lopez saw that the blast had come from outside the Cole. The realization that it could not have been a lab accident was a relief.
Sailors on deck had thrown lines down to her and McTureous, but were too busy to hoist them up. She kept being washed back toward the hole in the hull, and she feared getting trapped. Lopez steadied herself by thinking of her husband, her 7-year-old son and her 4-year-old daughter back in Virginia. "I was going to get home to see them," she said. "We floated for two hours, maybe more. Then they pulled us in."
On the main deck, Navy corpsmen were working frantically to save the injured, some of whom had grievous wounds--mangled legs and arms, broken jaws, internal bleeding. One sailor performed CPR on Costelow.
The ship was stabilized, and the injured were evacuated first to a hospital in Yemen, then to Germany. Like many, Lopez keeps thinking of her shipmates still aboard the Cole. "They went days without water," she said. "They had nowhere to sleep. They are the true heroes."
After awakening from heavy sedation, Lopez joined her family in their Hampton home this week. Mooney is in Racine, Wis., with his wife and 7-week-old daughter, who was born after he went to sea. Lorensen was brought in a hospital gurney to a memorial for the Cole's casualties last week in Norfolk. McTureous, along with four other Cole sailors, attended Wednesday's World Series game at Shea Stadium.
Triplett's body was returned to his family for a funeral in Hampton Wednesday. Costelow was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Oct. 20, at a funeral attended by his widow and three boys, Dillon, 13, Brady, 5, and Ethan, 4. "If he hadn't made chief, he'd still be alive," said Sharla Costelow. "It's a strange thing."
Before it all happened, before the Cole disaster, Sharla Costelow had hated the Navy for taking her husband away. It's different now. "I can't hate something he loved," she said.
© 2000 The Washington Post Company