For most Americans, the touchstone event marking the beginning of the war on terror was the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and Flight 93, but for Tom Wibberly and his family, it began 11 months earlier.
More than a decade after the Oct. 12, 2000, attack on the USS Cole that claimed the life of his son, Craig, Tom Wibberley was awakened by a call from his daughter informing him that the man who ordered that attack, Osama Bin Laden, had been killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in a raid in Pakistan.
“We knew from the beginning he was responsible for the attack on the Cole,” Wibberley said Monday morning. “At least I know he paid for killing my son.”
“It won’t bring back Craig,” Wibberley said.
“I was excited to hear bin Laden had been shot and killed, but it won’t fill the void in my heart for my brother,” said Toni Payne, Craig Wibberley’s sister. She was up until midnight Sunday, receiving phone calls and text messages from friends thinking about her and her family, Payne said.
Payne’s 4-year-old son is named Cole, after the ship, and “I told him today was a good day for America ... I tried to tell him the bad guy who killed his Uncle Craigy was dead.”
“I know a lot of people are thinking about my brother and the others that have been killed over the years” by terrorists, Payne said.
Seaman Craig Wibberley of Williamsport was among 17 sailors killed when an explosives-filled boat was detonated by suicide bombers alongside the destroyer in Aden, Yemen. Also killed was another Washington County man, Patrick Roy of Keedysville.
About two weeks ago, Tom Wibberley received a letter from the Department of Defense informing him that charges had been refiled against the planner of the Cole attack, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is being held at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.
Al-Nashiri had been charged in the Cole bombing before, but the charges were dropped during President Obama’s first year in office while the military tribunal system was being reconsidered, Wibberley said. A military tribunal for al-Nashiri is the appropriate judicial forum for the accused terrorist’s trial, he said.
The death of bin Laden might be good news, but the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, said Edward C. Shaffer of Mont Alto., Pa., whose son Sgt. Edward W. Shaffer died Dec. 26, 2006, from injuries he received in Iraq in 2006.
“It’s never going to bring anybody back,” Shaffer said of bin Laden’s death. “There’s probably somebody that is going to take his place.”
Alan Linton died on 9/11 in the collapse of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, where he worked on the 104th floor for an investment banking firm. He would have been 36 in April, his father Pat said.
“We have these reminders that come back all the time,” Pat Linton of Frederick, Md., said Monday. Birthdays pass without him, and his son was very religious, so Easter was a reminder, Linton said. Even the NFL draft brought back memories, because Alan was a big football fan, he said.
“We had dealt with Alan’s death. ... We always knew that if Alan wasn’t here on earth, he was in a better place,” Linton said.