Bowling Green man reflects on U.S.S. Cole bombing

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Everyone remembers Sept. 11, 2001 differently.

Before there was 9/11, though, there was 10/12.

“10/12, the bombing of the Cole, was the final test of our resolve as to what we would do if we were going to respond in any way,” said Bob Overturf, a retired U.S. Navy veteran.

The incident Overturf is referring to is on Oct. 12, 2000, the U.S.S. Cole, an American naval ship, was refueling in the Aden harbor off the coast of Yemen when it was hit by a suicide bomber, blowing a massive hole in the side of the boat and killing 17 members of the crew.

The attack was organized by al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

Overturf was one of the sailors on that ship that survived the bombing.

“It was an act of war, and we didn’t respond in a military manner,” he said, reflecting back on the event that took place nearly 19 years ago. “We responded with FBI investigations and court indictments. That just doesn’t work in other parts of the world.”

The United States government launched an investigation into the attack, but their lack of action proved to be frustrating to Overturf.

“If they could hit an American warship, what would they get in return,” he said. “They got nothing in return. They already had the plan in place to make our 9/11 happen.”

Almost 11 months after the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, al-Qaeda carried out an even more devastating attack, hijacking airplanes and crashing them into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Two other planes crashed after being hijacked that day, one hit the Pentagon and another never made it to the destination that terrorists intended because passengers overtook them, and the plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field.

When those attacks occurred, Overturf was stationed on the U.S.S. Barry off the East coast of the country, and he recalls watching the events unfold on the television screen along with fellow members of his crew, all of them in shock.

“We along with the rest of the Atlantic fleet were sorted out to sea to provide protection along the Atlantic coast,” said Overturf.

An attack like this, not too long after the attack on the Cole, brought back memories of pain and turmoil to Overturf’s mind.

“It was heartbreaking,” he said. “It was sickening and absolutely terrifying that we were getting hit again by something because what we went through on the Cole, most people don’t realize just how bad it was, how horrific it was.”

The Bowling Green High School alum still feels that the events that transpired on 9/11 could have been avoided if the U.S. had retaliated against al-Qaeda after 10/12.

“The fact that we didn’t respond with some show of force absolutely led to the events of 10/12 and 9/11,” said Overturf.