JAKARTA: Twenty years after explosions rocked Indonesia’s iconic resort island of Bali, Thiolina Marpaung is still battling trauma, adjusting to a changed life as a survivor of the worst attack in the country’s history.
When on Oct. 12, 2002, militants blew up two nightclubs in Kuta, the island’s tourist hotspot, Marpaung was in a car between the music venues. She was lucky to survive, unlike 202 others, mostly foreign tourists.
But the impact of the blast shattered the car windscreen, and pieces of glass pierced her eyes, leaving an injury that may never heal, despite seven surgeries she has already undergone to save her from blindness.
“Doctors had to insert something into my eyes for me to see again, and as these things require regular check-ups, I have to go once every two months,” Marpaung, now 48, who lives in Bali, told Arab News.
Flashbacks from the attack continue to haunt her — the very smell of smoke triggers them immediately.
“In my head, it immediately comes across as ‘bomb, bomb, bomb,’ and so I have to check myself to see that smoke comes from garbage burning,” she said. “Only then can I relax a little.”
The 2002 explosions were part of a coordinated attack by militants from Jemaah Islamiyah, which killed 202 people — among them 88 Australians, 38 Indonesians, and 23 Britons. At least another 209 were injured, including Marpaung.
Every year, on Oct. 12, she joins other survivors and relatives of victims for prayer. In Bali, a ceremony to remember them was held at the main memorial site in Kuta on Wednesday morning.
“We always dedicate every October 12 to pray for peace,” Marpaung said. “I truly hope that there will be no incident like the Bali bombings in this country.”
Among those who perished was 26-year-old British tourist Edward Waller. For his brother, Tom, it “still feels like yesterday,” and is a constant reminder of how short life can be.
“Life is short, and you need to seize the opportunity to do the things you want to do, before it is too late,” he told Arab News.
The mindlessness of the attack continues to haunt him.
“It appears to have achieved nothing but suffering and loss for the families who lost loved ones,” he added.
“I think that losing my brother in the atrocity propelled me to get on with life, start a family, continue living my life without fear, to prove to the terrorists that they can’t win.”