Bali bombing victims search for closure 10 years on
A decade after suicide bombers brought carnage to Indonesia’s resort island of Bali, survivors have returned to the scene for a commemoration service with many determined to finally banish memories of an atrocity that left 202 dead.
Australian Peter Hughes, 52, suffered more than 50 per cent burns after a bomber detonated a device in Paddy’s Bar, forcing dazed survivors into the street where many were hit by a second explosion from a minivan parked on the opposite side of the road.
The blasts, which killed 164 foreigners including 88 Australians, changed Hughes’s life forever. Burn scars creep across his limbs and face, a brutal testimony to the horrors of that night.
He spent two weeks in a coma and was declared dead three times before medics revived him – a remarkable survival he attributes to a desire to live for his son, who has accompanied him to Bali for Friday’s memorial service, which will be attended by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
“I was at Paddy’s Bar with three of my mates. I was walking to the bar to pick up my Bintang beer when I heard the explosion and saw flames coming at me,” he said.
As he ran out off the blast, the second more powerful explosion outside the Sari Club knocked Hughes back along with a woman he had helped up off the floor, scorching his body with flames and showering him with glass and shrapnel.
Hughes has recounted the events of October 12, 2002, regularly, including during trials of several terror suspects in Indonesia, something he believes the courts welcomed because his scars tell a story beyond words.
But now Hughes is ready to put the past 10 years behind him.
“It hit me in the last six months that I just don’t want to play a part of this anymore,” he said.
“I’ve been watching 9/11 [memorials] intently every year, and when it came to 10 years, it seemed to be the major closure point.
“I watched a lot of people suffering, but I also saw a lot of people walking away, saying ‘that’s it’. And that’s what I plan to do this year. Walk away and just concentrate on my private time.”
While he is ready for a new chapter in his life, he has no interest in forgiving those who carried out Indonesia’s deadliest terror attack.
“Three were sentenced to death, and frankly, I think they should all get the same.”
For Sandra Thompson, 62, who lost her son Clint Nathan Thompson in the blasts, forgiveness is not the issue.
“God gave me the gift of mercy. My family could never understand that,” she said.
Her son was in Bali with a team of rugby league players from Sydney’s Coogee Dolphins football club, which lost six young men in the bombings.
But Thompson says she wants to end a decade of mourning, which she believes tore her marriage apart.
“I’ve been to two other memorials here in Bali, and this is my last one. I’ll probably never come back to Bali again.”
While much focus is put on the foreigners who died on October 12, 2002, 38 Indonesians also perished in the blasts.
The Balinese who depend on tourism for their livelihoods also suffered, with their businesses decimated in the years following the terror strike and another deadly bomb attack in 2005.
I Nyomankayana, 37, who was working in a money exchange window when the nightclub bombers struck, was put out of work as tourist numbers plummeted.
Although business has now rebounded with holidaymakers again flocking to the island’s pristine shores, he remains furious with the bombers for ruining paradise.
“We’ve not felt safe in Bali since,” he said.