Published October 12, 2012
BALI, Indonesia – A decade after bombs ripped through two Bali nightclubs, Friday was filled with reminders of what was lost in this tropical paradise, and what was not. Tears fell as victims' names were read at a memorial, but not far away, surfers paddled for world-class waves and vacationing shoppers lined busy sidewalks haggling for souvenirs.
Suicide bombers killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists, when one blew himself up inside and another set off a car bomb at the popular Sari Club and Paddy's Pub in Kuta that sultry Saturday night in 2002. But radicalism did not take over this moderate Muslim nation, and the visitors terrorists once scared away from the resort island have come flooding back.
Hotel rooms were hard to come by Friday, even as security alerts were raised to the highest level following a potential unspecific threat.
"There is peace in this island, and the knowledge that millions still come here for the same reasons you and your loved ones did," Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard told victims' loved ones at a memorial service. "And perhaps there is a grim reassurance in knowing that the terrorists did not achieve what they set out to do. They did not undermine Indonesian democracy, which has only grown stronger across the passage of a decade."
Australia suffered more deaths in the attacks than any other country, with 88 of its citizens dead. Bali, with its lively nightlife and warm pristine waters, has long been a favorite getaway for Australians, and Gillard herself had returned home from a family holiday a day before the Oct. 12, 2002, attacks.
The Australian government paid for more than 600 survivors and victims' family members to attend the ceremony. Some gathered for the memorial in shorts and T-shirts, fanning themselves in the blazing morning heat.
Danny Hanley, one of the speakers, lost two daughters in bombings: Renee died immediately and Simone became the last victim after 58 days in a Perth burn unit. "When I hear of the 88 Australians that died, I always shed a tear that my beautiful daughter, Simone, was number 88," he said.
Many attending the memorial in Jimbaran walked past photos of the victims, posted on large black boards; some stopped to touch the faces of those they knew. Others sat in white chairs with their heads bowed as they listened to the speeches encouraging remembrance and healing. Meanwhile, others laid flowers and paused to hug at the bombing site in Kuta known as "ground zero."
Remembrances were also held across Australia to mark the anniversary. In the capital, Canberra, dignitaries and family members of those killed gathered at Parliament House to mourn.
The attack, carried out by suicide bombers from the al-Qaida-linked group Jemaah Islamiyah, started a wave of violence in the world's most populous Muslim nation, hitting an embassy, hotels and restaurants. Three years later, another bomb attack killed 20 people.
Many visitors later shied away from the popular Hindu-dominated island, which survives on tourist dollars. Hotel occupancy plummeted 80 percent a year after the attacks, and foreign tourist arrivals fell by 70 percent. It was hit so hard the Indonesian government encouraged locals to visit Bali instead of traveling abroad.
The 2002 attacks were "like a tsunami disaster for us here," said Wayan Gota, a handicraft trader in Bali. "The attack not only killed hundreds of people, but also destroyed every sector of our lives and led to prolonged economic difficulties. ... It took several years for us to recover from the paralysis."
Other Balinese suffer still more intensely from the attacks, which killed 38 Indonesians and injured many more.
Tumini, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, was a bartender getting ready to serve her first customer that night at Paddy's Pub. She was thrown outside the bar and knocked unconscious. The only thing she remembers is waking up in the hospital with burns covering her face and body.
Today, the mother of three still struggles to understand why she survived when so many others died. She was forced to find lower-paying work and cannot afford the medical care she needs.
"I feel my life is still miserable. I am not 100 percent normal," she said. "I often think and ask why God still allows me to live if I have to endure this pain."
Most of Indonesia's 210 million Muslims practice a moderate style of Islam that condemns violence, and the government has worked to root out militants, arresting more than 700 of them since the bombings and killing dozens more. Terrorist attacks aimed at foreigners have been largely replaced in recent years by smaller, less deadly strikes mostly targeting police and anti-terrorism forces.
"Instead of spreading the seeds of hatred, that heinous attack has prompted governments and peoples of different backgrounds, of different nationalities and religions, to reach out to one another," said Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa. "To stand united."
Tourism, meanwhile, has bounced back. More than 1.8 million foreigners arrived in Bali prior to the attacks, and last year 2.7 million came to the island where Julia Roberts filmed part of the movie "Eat, Pray, Love."
"It was a big thing for Australia because this is ... like our second home to come to. It was pretty devastating but you know, it happens all over the world," Mitch O'Brian said while enjoying a holiday in Bali. "I'm not afraid to come here because it's a great place."
Security was tight at Friday's memorial with more than 2,000 police and military deployed, including snipers. Two days earlier, police said they had received information about a potential terrorist threat. Bali deputy police chief Brig. Gen. Ketut Untung Yoga Ana said new intelligence indicates the threat may have weakened, but he added that security forces would remain vigilant and continue to closely monitor movement in and out of the island.
Last month police arrested 10 Islamic militants and seized a dozen homemade bombs from a group suspected of planning suicide attacks, but to Bali hotel operator Gde Wiratha, that was in part a sign that the threat remains.
"Bali was very safe before the bombing ... but now no one knows," he said. "I, myself, still have fears that radical groups like Jemaah Islamiyah are still far from being defeated."
Associated Press writers Kristen Gelineau in Sydney and Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia contributed to this report.