Commander's parents breath sigh of relief knowing son is safe after deadly terrorist attack

Cmdr. Kirk Lippold's parents in Carson City haven't had a chance to talk with him yet, they said Friday, but they are no longer worrying.

"He's too busy at this point to talk to his mom," said Bee Staheli, a retired Carson City teacher."He knows that I know he's safe. As far as I'm concerned, he has other things on his mind. When he took command of the ship, I did say to him 'I don't see any mother's quarters.' He said, 'No, there are no mother's quarters.'"

Staheli said the communication center aboard the USS Cole was damaged and not even e-mail can get through.

His father, Robert Lippold, said, "I have not tried to contact him. When he has the time, I'm sure we'll hear from him. He has other things to worry about."

Kirk Lippold, Carson High School Class of '77, is responsible for the USS Cole, the Navy destroyer targeted Thursday for an apparent terrorist bombing that killed at least 17 sailors serving under him.

Matthew Melanovich of Winnemucca also escaped injury in Thursday's blast in the Yemeni port of Aden, as did Roger Torres, of Spring Creek, near Elko.

Lippold's divorced parents both heard about the blast about 6 a.m. Thursday - Staheli in a phone call from a friend in Norfolk, Va., and Lippold while watching CNN.

Both separately had hours of anxiety Thursday until they got word. The Navy called Staheli about 9 a.m., and Lippold in the afternoon got a call from Rear Adm. John B. Foley III, commander of Naval Surface Forces Atlantic Fleet.

"I got a call from an admiral indicating (Kirk's) doing a fine job," Lippold said.

Kirk Lippold, 41 and a bachelor, took command of the USS Cole in June 1999. The Cole is the first ship under his command.

Did his parents envision him as a Navy commander in charge of a destroyer as he thought about applying to the military academies while at Carson High?

"Obviously that's the goal when you go to the Naval Academy," his father said. "He was extraordinarily determined and also very bright (while in high school). He's always been very much a perfectionist."

Staheli said. "I know he wanted command of a ship. He's always had leadership quality."

For a long time, their son had a passion for skydiving, even as he rose in rank in the U.S. Navy.

"He was looking into Naval aviation (while at the Naval Academy)," his father said. "He was responsible for the skydiving academy at the Naval Academy for a short period of time."

Neither father nor mother are sure why Kirk chose a Navy career. Lippold remembered Kirk spoke with the Navy ROTC officer at Carson High and received appointments to both Annapolis and West Point.

"I don't know why (he chose the Naval Academy)," Lippold said. "That was his choice."

"He came home one day and said 'I applied for a military scholarship.' I'd had no indication," said Staheli.

Kirk didn't take after his father, a psychologist in the Nevada's prison system before retiring. Staheli taught English and journalism at Carson High, where she started teaching the year after Kirk graduated. She retired in June.

"No, thank God," Staheli said kiddingly when asked if she ever taught Kirk. "We may have driven each other nuts had we been in the same room. No, we would have been just fine."

Staheli said her son tries to get back to Carson City at least once a year, but his last visit was about a year and a half ago, before he took command of the Cole.

Neither parent could sense how Kirk is faring emotionally.

"I'm sure he's totally preoccupied to make sure everything is taken care of on the USS Cole," Lippold said. "He's so terribly thorough that I'm sure he's not leaving a stone unturned."

"He will handle it," Staheli said. "It will hit him later."


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