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Thursday, December 8, 2022
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    Scarred for life

    Edna Tarigan & Rod McGuirk

    JAKARTA, INDONESIA (AP) – Thiolina Marpaung still panics whenever she smells smoke, immediately recalling the bomb explosion that upended her life 20 years ago.

    Marpaung, now 48, was in a car with her colleagues on the Indonesian resort island of Bali in 2002 when the blast shook their vehicle from behind. Marpaung was temporarily blinded as shards of glass pierced her eyes.

    She remembers calling out for help and someone bringing her to the sidewalk, before an ambulance raced her to a hospital with other victims.

    “I was traumatised by the sound of ambulance sirens,” Marpaung said.

    She was one of dozens of Indonesian survivors who were outside of Sari Club on the night of October 12, 2002, when the suicide bombers detonated the bomb at the club.

    Marpaung later had surgery in Australia to remove the glass from her eyes, but the pain still bothers her till this day.

    Encouraged by her psychologist, she has thrown away and burned photographs, news articles, clothing and other reminders of that day. She even tossed the shards of glass that were removed from her eyes onto Kuta Beach in Bali, not far from the bombing site.

    “That’s made me feel better until now,” she said.

    A memorial wall in Kuta. PHOTOS: AP
    Thiolina Marpaung recalling the bomb explosion in an interview with The Associated Press in Denpasar, Bali
    Peter Hughes shows his burn scars during his testimony on June 16, 2003, in Denpasar, Bali

    Ni Luh Erniati, who lost her husband in the Bali bombing, has raised two sons as a single mother for the past two decades. She met Patek at the prison in East Java province last month. She has met other convicted terrorists too, saying she believes the meetings can help relieve her grief.

    “I told him that I worked at Sari Club and I met my husband at Sari Club, and then I had to lose my husband at Sari Club. It is a memory that is very, very unforgettable and tragic.

    And I said, because of that incident, I lost my true love, and I told him my life after that.

    He was crying, really crying,” Erniati said.

    Patek begged for her forgiveness, she said.

    “Finally, I couldn’t help but take it. He knelt down. I held his hand, I said, ‘Yes, I have forgiven you.’ He was crying louder,” Erniati said.

    “I also told him, let’s work together to protect our beloved country so that the same tragedies don’t happen in the future. … He was still crying,” she added.

    Although she forgives him, Erniati said the decision over his release is now up to the government, which is deciding whether to free him after he served half of his 20-year sentence.

    Peter Hughes, another survivor of the 2002 bombing who hails from the Australian west coast city of Perth, has visited Bali more than 30 times in the past 20 years after overcoming his physical and psychological trauma.

    Hughes spent a month in an induced coma after suffering burns to 55 per cent of his body in the Paddy’s Pub explosions in Bali.

    He said he plans to visit again for the 20th anniversary commemoration service.

    “I’m mainly going back because I’m on holiday and while I was there I just thought I’d pay my respects. That’s a given,” Hughes said.

    He can understand why some survivors of the Bali bombings might never want to return.

    “People have a choice. People deal with deep trauma differently. It’s unpredictable how people deal with issues. I don’t really have an issue with it. I put it down to a bit of bad luck and that just keeps it good in my space, if you know what I mean,” Hughes said.

    Hughes was interviewed by an Australian news crew at a Bali hospital hours after the blasts. Blistered and swollen, he told the reporter he was feeling “really good” and other victims were worse off.

    Hughes today says he was certain he would die in Bali but wanted to send a positive message to his 21-year-old son Lee, who might see the news. “I just lied. The whole idea was to get something back to my son,” Hughes said.

    Hughes also said he was not concerned that Patek could soon be released from prison.

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