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Victim remembered on anniversary of the USS Cole bombing

October 12, 2012|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • Cole Payne, 5, stands at the grave of his late uncle SN US Navy Craig Wibberley Friday at St Mark's before the start of a commemoration of the USS Cole bombing victims.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

Toni Wibberley-Payne was in the shower on Oct. 12, 2000, when she heard that the USS Cole had been bombed off the coast of Yemen.

She said she felt anxious because her brother, former Williamsport resident Craig Wibberley, was a sailor serving aboard the destroyer.

Unsettled by not knowing her brother’s fate, Wibberley-Payne said she went for a drive to calm her nerves. A short time later, she got a call from her mother to come home.

“The military chaplain was there,” she said. “It was your worst nightmare.”

On Friday afternoon, Wibberley-Payne and roughly 50 others gathered before her brother’s grave at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church near Boonsboro — as they have done every year on the anniversary of the bombing — to hold a memorial service.

The gray day was cold and windy as prayers were said and military honors were bestowed, including the customary rifle volley followed by a bugler playing “Taps.”

Craig Wibberley was among 17 American sailors who were killed and 39 who were wounded when terrorists detonated a boat filled with explosives near the Cole’s hull as the warship was anchored in the harbor at Aden, Yemen.

He was one of two 19-year-old Washington County residents to die in the attack. Former Keedysville resident Patrick Roy also perished.

Jerry Wright, of Frederick, Md., said he tries to attend the service every year because he and Craig Wibberley were shipmates aboard the Cole.

“We bonded. We became good friends,” he said.

Wright said the explosion hit in the galley area of the ship as the sailors lined up to eat lunch. He said he was standing behind closed doors near a dishwashing machine when the explosives detonated.

“I know that’s what saved me,” Wright said of his position behind the doors. “There were 3-to 6-inch pieces of shrapnel stuck in it.”

Wright said the blast threw him against the dishwasher. He said he was dizzy at first, but he recovered and started to help sift through the wreckage to find sailors who were still alive.

Craig Wibberley was one of them.

“He was in my arms,” Wright said. “We were together.”

Wright said he sometimes feels survivor’s remorse because he lived through the attack and Wibberley and 16 others did not.

“I try to live life to the fullest,” he said. “Every time I see an opportunity, I take full advantage of it.”

Craig Wibberley’s father, Tom Wibberley, said sharing time with his family and friends helps to ease some of the grief with each passing year.

“Coming here (to the service) is starting to get easier,” he said. “But when I wake up every morning, I still have the same thoughts.”

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