Decade after attack, tears for dead, hope for Bali

Associated Press Modified: October 12, 2012 at 7:01 am •  Published: October 12, 2012
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BALI, Indonesia (AP) — A decade after bombs ripped through two Bali nightclubs, Friday was filled with reminders of what was lost in this tropical paradise, and what was not. Tears fell as victims' names were read at a memorial, but not far away, surfers paddled for world-class waves and vacationing shoppers lined busy sidewalks haggling for souvenirs.

Suicide bombers killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists, when one blew himself up inside and another set off a car bomb at the popular Sari Club and Paddy's Pub in Kuta that sultry Saturday night in 2002. But radicalism did not take over this moderate Muslim nation, and the visitors terrorists once scared away from the resort island have come flooding back.

Hotel rooms were hard to come by Friday, even as security alerts were raised to the highest level following a potential unspecific threat.

"There is peace in this island, and the knowledge that millions still come here for the same reasons you and your loved ones did," Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard told victims' loved ones at a memorial service. "And perhaps there is a grim reassurance in knowing that the terrorists did not achieve what they set out to do. They did not undermine Indonesian democracy, which has only grown stronger across the passage of a decade."

Australia suffered more deaths in the attacks than any other country, with 88 of its citizens dead. Bali, with its lively nightlife and warm pristine waters, has long been a favorite getaway for Australians, and Gillard herself had returned home from a family holiday a day before the Oct. 12, 2002, attacks.

The Australian government paid for more than 600 survivors and victims' family members to attend the ceremony. Some gathered for the memorial in shorts and T-shirts, fanning themselves in the blazing morning heat.

Danny Hanley, one of the speakers, lost two daughters in bombings: Renee died immediately and Simone became the last victim after 58 days in a Perth burn unit. "When I hear of the 88 Australians that died, I always shed a tear that my beautiful daughter, Simone, was number 88," he said.

Many attending the memorial in Jimbaran walked past photos of the victims, posted on large black boards; some stopped to touch the faces of those they knew. Others sat in white chairs with their heads bowed as they listened to the speeches encouraging remembrance and healing. Meanwhile, others laid flowers and paused to hug at the bombing site in Kuta known as "ground zero."

Remembrances were also held across Australia to mark the anniversary. In the capital, Canberra, dignitaries and family members of those killed gathered at Parliament House to mourn.

The attack, carried out by suicide bombers from the al-Qaida-linked group Jemaah Islamiyah, started a wave of violence in the world's most populous Muslim nation, hitting an embassy, hotels and restaurants. Three years later, another bomb attack killed 20 people.

Many visitors later shied away from the popular Hindu-dominated island, which survives on tourist dollars. Hotel occupancy plummeted 80 percent a year after the attacks, and foreign tourist arrivals fell by 70 percent. It was hit so hard the Indonesian government encouraged locals to visit Bali instead of traveling abroad.

The 2002 attacks were "like a tsunami disaster for us here," said Wayan Gota, a handicraft trader in Bali. "The attack not only killed hundreds of people, but also destroyed every sector of our lives and led to prolonged economic difficulties. ... It took several years for us to recover from the paralysis."