Flashback to the Bali blasts of 2002

October 14, 2012

By Beawiharta

A ceremony to remember the victims of a bomb blast that struck a busy street on a Saturday night in 2002, killing 202 people.

Today’s ceremony carried me back to 10 years ago, where shops were burned and damaged. The bomb had left a big hole in Legian Street. That Sunday morning in 2002 was bright, with good weather and a blue sky as I entered Kuta beach’s Hard Rock Hotel. It was a different atmosphere; the situation wasn’t relaxing on the resort island. It was on high alert with security personnel covering the streets. Police, local security people called “pecalang” always asked for ID. If someone didn’t have ID, they couldn’t enter the hotel area or walk the streets.

I arrived at the bomb blast site shortly after landing from Jakarta but the destroyed area was already closed off by police. Security was very tight and no one could enter the bomb blast area so I went to the hospital, to try to get access to the victims. The hospital was not a comfortable place to be, especially after the violence of the night before. There were many burned bodies lying on the floor covered with white fabric, and the smell was bad. It’s already been 10 years since that day but some of the visuals of the 2002 Bali bombing are still in my mind.

Firstly, I took pictures of an injured woman lying on a hospital bed as her injured friend tried to comfort her. Just one click and go; it was a difficult time to photograph not because of security or limited access to the recovery room. I was already there, standing next to her bed, it was because I didn’t want to take that picture. For a moment I didn’t do anything, I couldn’t do anything. The visual wasn’t great, as the injuries weren’t too visible but how two women communicated by touching each other in the difficult situation; that touched me.

She had an injury on her back but it was covered and she wasn’t crying. Her friend just sat next to her and touched her hand; oh, that is what a friend is for. I was just standing near by. I couldn’t speak or say hello, or even ask for her name. Maybe I was trying to ask for permission through my body language. Finally I took this picture after convincing myself it was not a bad thing. My pictures are dedicated to the two of them and you have both have my respect as you show what a friend is for. Hopefully today, 10 years on, both of you have a wonderful life.

The third day after the blast, I managed to get through the first level of security at the bomb site. After spending some time taking pictures outside the bomb blast area, my eyes were struck by a shoe on top of a table inside Paddy’s bar. I tried to take pictures using a long lens but the visual wasn’t good. I needed to get closer to make better pictures but security was very tight. No one could enter the bomb blast site, not even Indonesian police. Everybody was waiting for the forensic team from the Australian Federal Police to examine the place. But I knew I must go inside before the forensic police took all the debris from inside the bar.

The fourth day I arrived at the bomb blast site very early. As I walked around I was lucky to meet with two employees of Paddy’s club. They were using a ladder to try to enter the bomb blast site from the backyard. Ah, using a ladder and jumping over a 3 meter high brick wall was not a good idea. But, this was the best opportunity so far to reach closer to the shoe. I just said hello and followed them inside.

After walking carefully amid a lot of broken glass, bottles, and other remnants I got closer to the shoe. Just three clicks and I left the place. I didn’t leave anything and I didn’t take anything.

Today, the bomb blast area has become a tourist attraction in Bali. Near the big holes in the street where the bomb blast struck, today there is a monument and a pond. A lot of tourists come to the site to take pictures of themselves at the monument. Legian Street is now a busy street with a lot of new small hotels cropping up. The club where I took the shoe picture, Paddy’s bar, has changed into a two storey building with a new shop and restaurant, complete with colorful decoration. Live music plays everyday on the second floor.

10 years later life is back to normal. But, the other bomb blast site, the Sari Club, is now a dirty parking area that some people use as an outdoor toilet. The owner of the Sari Club doesn’t want to sell the place to anybody but he also hasn’t built anything on the site himself.

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With body language and good ethic always needed for a news photogrpaher to capture human tragedy.

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