Posted October 23, 2003
JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — Exactly 20 years ago, a truck packed with explosives crashed through barricades and into a compound that housed Camp Lejeune Marines.
The truck exploded, killing 241 North Carolina-based troops who were on a peacekeeping mission in Beirut.
That day, Oct. 23, 1983, marked the first major suicide bombing by terrorists on a United States target.
Thursday, nearly 1,500 people came to Camp Lejeune to pay tribute to the men who died in that attack. Emotions were still raw for the Marines who made it out and the families left behind.
Each person had a different reason to mark the day.
Heidi Crudale's first husband was killed there. She came to be with others who would understand, but it brought more pain than comfort.
"I'm very grateful that a lot of Marines are still alive," Crudale said. "But when I look around and see them, I think how lucky their family members are to have them."
Gerrard Chipura's brother, John, was one of the Marines who survived the blast. But John Chipura had a second bout with terrorism; he was a New York City firefighter who died on 9/11.
"After all these years of these families having that loss, and now we share in that loss the same kind of feelings," Gerrard Chipura said. "So it was important for us to be here, too, and kind of heal a little bit."
Many came to touch the name of a loved one. Darrell Gibson touched them all.
Gibson was a survivor of the '83 attack.
"I was over there in '83," he said. "That was my battalion, 1st battalion, 8th Marines. Those were my people, my Marines and my shipmates."
Twenty years later, a statue still stands for all the Marines who fell.
The family members and fellow Marines said the best way to continue honoring the memories of those lost in Beirut is to support the troops who are still overseas fighting the war that began with them.
Many of the victims' families and survivors will continue to mark the anniversary with events in Jacksonville throughout the weekend.