‘We must stay vigilant’: survivors of Bali bombings mark 17th anniversary

 

Thiolina Marpaung, a survivor of the 2002 terrorist attack in Bali, says she’s worried about the recent attacks plaguing Indonesia. 

“It kind of shows that security must be even more vigilant, tightened. We must realize that efforts to tackle terrorism can’t entirely be dependent on law enforcement officers, but also [on] us as members of the community,” Thiolina, who is also known as Lina, told Coconuts Bali over the weekend.

Lina was commenting on the attack on Indonesia’s chief security minister Wiranto last week in Banten province, allegedly by two members of an Islamic State group-linked terror network. 

For survivors of the Bali bombings like herself, the attack was a sore reminder on Indonesia’s continued struggle with Islamist militancy. 

“At the very least, we need to pay attention. As a victim of the Bali bombings, I can only say that being a victim of a terrorist attack is extremely painful. For it not to happen again, we need to show we care [about what’s going on],” Lina said. 

Lina had to go through seven surgeries and a long recovery to fix her eyes, which was injured from being pierced by a glass during the blast in 2002. She is grateful that she’s been saved from blindness, though her eyes still ache and sometimes feel like they’re burning from time to time. 

Saturday marked the 17th anniversary of the Bali Bombings, the country’s deadliest terrorist attack that killed 202 victims. Most of the victims were foreign tourists from more than 20 countries, though Australia suffered the biggest loss, with 88 dead. 

Hundreds of mourners and survivors gathered at the memorial in Kuta this year, where some family members of the victims reportedly broke down in tears and even fainted during a candlelight vigil held on Saturday evening. 

“It has been 17 years but the wound is still fresh for me. It is difficult to fully heal but I am trying to let go of the past,” Endang Isnaini, who lost her husband in the attack, told AFP, sobbing. 

Ripple effect of the Bali bombings

Carrisa Tehputri was only seven years old when Islamic militants detonated bombs on her home island in 2002 and life turned upside down for her family. 

The tragedy consequently impacted life for many Balinese, who depended greatly on tourism for income. Carrisa, for example, witnessed how her father, who was the owner of a travel agency, had to lose his business after tourism dwindled following the attacks. 

A memorial for victims of the 2002 Bali bombings in Kuta. Photo: Sonny Tumbelaka / AFP
A memorial for victims of the 2002 Bali bombings in Kuta. Photo: Sonny Tumbelaka / AFP

“My father lost the business he built from scratch, he had to lay off over 20 people who worked for him, sold so many cars and mini buses, and needless to say, our family lost our only source of income,” Carrisa told Coconuts Bali over email. 

Carrisa recounted moments in her young life where her family had to rely on others’ help for food and even shelter, of being unable to pay school fees on time and losing loved ones who succumbed and ended their lives because of the massive economic impact as a result of the terrorist attacks. 

She also mentioned the resulting trauma, telling us how many Balinese people she knows still avoid going to crowded places during New Year’s or other big holidays to this day, out of fear of another bombing. 

Carissa’s story, like that of many others, illustrate the ripple effect of terrorist attacks that go beyond the immediate victims and site of the incident.   

The 23-year-old says what happened shaped her into a strong and resilient person, and eventually led her to do an undergraduate study on Social Research and Public Policy at the New York University on a full scholarship, where she graduated with honors. 

Now working as a public policy researcher at New York University Abu Dhabi, she highlighted the importance of cooperation from all members of society in tackling terrorism, including the reporting of any suspicious activities or individuals. 

“It is extremely important to stay vigilant … Radicalism is alive and well, and we must not stop battling radical ideologies.”


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