Bali blasts reignite painful memories for 2002 victims

For many survivors of Bali’s devastating 2002 nightclub bombings, last weekend’s suicide blasts have reignited painful memories and fears they have struggled to suppress.

“I lived it once again. After a long time, I feel the trauma again,” said Gatot Indro Suranto, who was hit with the full force of the car bomb that exploded in the Kuta tourist district on October 12 2002.

“As a victim myself, I am really worried because I know how painful it can be,” said Suranto, who was driving through Kuta on that fateful night when the bomb detonated just 50m away.

He and two other colleagues in the car escaped death but had to spend weeks in hospital and endure years of surgery.

Scars from glass shards and other debris from the blast were still visible on his neck, his chin and above his eyebrows.

“There are many more under my shirt and pants,” he said.

He returned to his job as a sales manager for a publishing company this week, only to face further stress when the Nusa newspaper, based just across the street from his own office, received an anonymous bomb threat.

“This is the first day back on my job,” he said, adding that three years after the blast, he has still not fully recovered and tires easily.

Erlina Marpaung, who was in the car with Suranto when the blast hit, said that when she heard of Saturday’s blasts which killed 19, “what had happened to me came back again… the feelings of that night returned”.

Marpaung was severely burned, and punctured by a multitude of glass shards and other debris, and still bears the light traces of scars across her face despite intensive cosmetic surgery.

“I am doing all I can to forget those feelings. I want to concentrate on my work, on living,” she said.

Recounting the three weeks he spent in hospital after the blast, Suranto said that “my life revolved around the bed and painkillers”.

There was fear and worry but also boredom, he said, adding that the hardest thing to deal with were the recurring images of the bombing which killed 202 people, and the memory of the dreadful moments that followed.

He has since been in and out of hospital for surgery to remove the many shards and objects that penetrated his skin through the force of the blast.

Another complication, a lung tumour, was removed in an operation carried out in Perth, Australia, in late August.
He returned just a few weeks ago and was told to rest at home before resuming his old job on Tuesday.

Suranto said he was thankful for the support of family friends and the various foundations that had helped him financially, medically and mentally.

He said that the Australian Red Cross, through a local Balinese foundation, was footing the bills for his medical treatment.

But Suranto was not the only one affected by the trauma of the latest blasts. “My wife was the one who was worried sick,” he said.

She was so worried about the fate of other relatives that she spent the night desperately trying to contact them, frustrated by the lack of telephone lines which were cut shortly after the explosions.

“She could not sleep… she appeared really in panic although we were all at home when the blast took place,” he said, referring to the couple and their two children.

“I had to take her to the crisis centre at the Sanglah [general hospital] to show her that my name was not on the list of victims.”

Suranto said that the wife of his colleague, Dewa Rudita, who was also injured in the 2002 blast, had a similar panicky reaction.

“She did not sleep and for the entire night, stayed on guard in front of the entrance door, making sure that her husband did not go anywhere out of the house,” he said.

Suranto said that although he fervently hopes the bombings will stop, he knows in his heart that “somewhere, sometimes, it will certainly happen again”. - Sapa-AFP

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