The Daily Juggle
The Daily Juggle
Why returning to Bali is difficult for everyone
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I finally returned to Bali with my husband and sons earlier this year after a 12-year break. Like many tourists we were deterred from traveling there when the bombs exploded inside Paddy's Pub and the Sari Club in Kuta on October 12, 2002.
Even though we didn't know any of the 202 people who died in this tragedy, we felt compelled to pay our respects at the memorial, which is on the original site of Paddy's Pub. Across the road was an empty lot, used as a car park. We walked around the expanse of that empty space which was once the Australian tourist's nightclub of choice, the Sari Club. It had a haunting quality about it. Or maybe my mind was projecting that, given the site's history.
Our driver, a family friend who has lived in Bali most of his life, told us how sorry the Balinese were for the deaths. He confirmed that the businesses in the area had suffered terribly as the tourism numbers declined sharply immediately after, but were finally starting to recover. He also told us how lucky the owner of The Sari Club was to have been absent from the scene on that night. Apparently the owner was always at the club.
I was the editor of Sunday Life magazine on October 12, 2003. We dedicated the lead-up edition to the first anniversary to the heroes and survivors of the Bali bombings. We featured Perth man Peter Hughes, who in the days after the tragedy came to represent the face of the survivors.
There were so many extraordinary tales of horror and humanity. Children lost parents. Parents lost children. Friendships were lost. New friendships were forged. The worst night imaginable was seared forever in their minds. Survivors who have returned to the site for the 10th anniversary have called for the car park to be transformed into a place of remembrance.
The evening of our visit to the memorial, with terror still on our minds, we dined at The Hard Rock Cafe in Kuta (our teenage sons' turn to choose). Security at the entrance to the popular tourist restaurant was tight. Once inside we learned why. Apparently when a restaurant at the Kuta Square Shopping Mall was bombed on October 1, 2005, the original target was The Hard Rock Cafe. The fact that this was still being talked about seven years later made me uneasy. I couldn't wait to get my children out of there.
I have been visiting Bali since I was a child because I have family there. It's a place I used to feel comfortable visiting. Now, not so much. I can only try to imagine how difficult it must be for the survivors to return to the site a decade later. My heart is with them on this difficult day of remembrance.