“I very empty in the bank after bombing”.
October 12, 2002 two bombs exploded in the city of Kuta, Bali. One was located in the backpack of a suicide bomber inside a tavern called Paddy’s Bar and the other in a car parked just outside of the nearby Sari Night Club. The bomb blasts killed over 200 people. Dozens of members of an Islamist terrorist sect were arrested for their part in the bombings and three were sentenced to death for masterminding the plot. The men who were convicted claimed they had picked venues in Bali where they could kill as many Westerners as possible to avenge the way Western governments have treated Muslims around the world. The terrorists did their homework and were well aware that Paddy’s and the Sari Club were popular nightspots for Western tourists. Nearly half of the bombing victims were from Australia, but there were also many from European countries and several from Canada and the United States.
A beautiful memorial has been built at the site of the Kuta bombings and we visited it on our recent trip to Bali. There are flags flying at half- mast representing the home countries of the victims. Colored lights flicker across a flowing fountain. Flowering shrubs and trees are planted everywhere. An ornate limestone carving containing different Balinese symbols for life rises high above a bronze plaque engraved with the names of each victim.
There are plans to build a peace park across the street on the former site of the Sari Club. Right now the lot is surrounded by a fence and is overgrown with trees, wild grasses and flowers. Tied to the fence are tributes obviously placed there by family and friends of victims who have traveled to Bali to see the place where their loved ones lost their lives. They have posted photographs of those who died and written poems, farewell messages and obituaries. It is certainly sobering to walk along the fence and see the pictures of the vibrant young people who were killed and read their stories.
While the grief experienced by many Western families who lost a loved one in Kuta is heart breaking the impact on local Balinese citizens was also devastating. Nearly half of Bali’s income is dependent on tourism. After the bombings tourist traffic was cut by more than half. Arrivals of visitors plummeted from nearly 5000 a day to around 2000. Many people in Bali lost their jobs and had no way to support their families. The taxi driver who drove us to see the site of the Bali Bombing Memorial said, “ I very empty in the bank after bombing”. He told us it was 2004 before he was once again able to make a decent living from his cab driving and business has never returned to its thriving state before the bombings. Another bomb in 2005 that killed 26 people in Kuta has further damaged the tourist industry.
Bali is a primarily Hindu country and its people have little sympathy for the cause of the Muslim extremists whose actions have wrecked such havoc with the economy of their peace-loving nation.
I read the warnings about travel to Bali before we visited but I am so glad we went to Indonesia despite them. The people of Bali need the support of the rest of the world. Traveling there is the best way to let terrorists know Westerners are not intimidated by their actions. Its also the best way to support the citizens of Bali as they seek to rebuild the reputation and economic health of their lovely island.