Two Very Different Oct. 12 Anniversaries

O Trinity of love and power! Our brethren shield in danger’s hour; From rock and tempest, fire and foe, Protect them wheresoe’er they go; Thus evermore shall rise to Thee Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.. Verse 4, “Eternal Father” – The Navy Hymn

Today, Oct. 12, is the 520th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the New World.  It is also the more somber anniversary of the U.S.S. Cole bombing by terrorists in the Port of Aden in Yemen on Oct. 12, 2000.

Columbus Day has been turned into a “Monday Holiday.” One day, no one will remember the exact date Columbus landed in the Caribbean, which is the real object of Monday holidays.  Originally, it was a holiday for Italians, as St. Patrick’s Day was a holiday for the Irish six months earlier.  There were so many Italian immigrants that a day off to celebrate made sense.

Now, not so much, though the Media still makes note of it.  Columbus has become a much-maligned hero, robber of gold, exploiter and enslaver of Indians, and so forth.  In a time when American exceptionalism is being forced under the waves, it’s natural that the first European to set foot on the shores of the North American continent should go down with the ship.

Yet, the voyage of the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria was an extraordinary act of courage.  The tiny vessels bobbing on the turbulent Atlantic sailed at a speed of about 4 miles per hour.  This son of a Genoan weaver embarked on the journey against all common sense and the scientific knowledge of the times, which held that the world was flat.  He believed the world was round and set out to prove, searching for a new route to the riches of the East Indies.

He was later arrested for mismanagement of the colony and sent back to Spain in chains for the death of the ringleader of a revolt and assassination attempt.  But it was his initial voyage that we best remember a commemorate; his confusion at what he thought was the shifting of the pole star, but was actually the compass needle shifting; the site of pelicans on board his ship, which he knew could not fly more than 200 miles from land, at best; his estimation that he was approaching Cipango (Japan) when he was actually in the vicinity of the Bahamas.

His men were losing patience; they wanted to return to Spain before their food and water ran out completely.  As he was arguing, cajoling and remonstrating his crew, logs, stalks of rose berries, and most importantly, hand-carved wooden objects floated by. Even more amazingly, he and a crewman spotted a moving point of light in the distance.

They waited the night in suspense.  At daybreak, they caught sight of the island the Indians called “Guanahani” what we know as San Salvador.  Columbus took the royal standard (the Banner of Castile) ashore, and claiming the land for Spain, knelt down and said a prayer of thanks. The 43-day voyage had been successful.

Over 500 years later, a ship sailing in the opposite direction, bearing the American flag, the U.S. Navy destroyer U.S.S. Cole was harbored in the Yemen Port of Aden.  As it sat at anchor refueling, under the command of Commander Kirk Lippold, a small craft approached the port side of the destroyer around 11:18 local time. An explosion occurred, creating a 40 by 40 foot gash in the ship’s port side.  The blast appeared to be caused by explosives molded into a shaped charge against the hull of the boat.  The blast hit the ship’s galley, where the crew was lining up for lunch.  Seventeen sailors were killed and 39 injured in the explosion.

The crew fought flooding in the engineering spaces for three days.  Divers inspecting the hull determined that the keel (the spine of the ship) was not damaged.  Intelligence determined that Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia was responsible for the suicide attack.  Nine months earlier, they attempted a similar attack on the U.S. Navy destroyer USS The Sullivans, as a part of the 2000 millennium attack plots.  Fortunately, the attacking vessel was so overloaded with explosives that it sank before the attack could be carried out.

A U.S. judge has held Sudan liable for the attack, while another has released over $13 million in Sudanese frozen assets to the relatives of those killed aboard the U.S.S. Cole.

Let us not forget that first sailor who set foot in the New World, opening the passage for freedom and prosperity on this date, nor those 17 who died, some 500 years later, protecting that same freedom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Published in: on October 12, 2012 at 9:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

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