What now for Bali’s broken hearts?
Broken hearts don’t mend in 10 years.
BROKEN hearts don’t mend in 10 years.
Not all of them, not if Bali is any guide.
Some may never heal, not completely.
That much was clear from the 10th anniversary memorial service for those killed in the 2002 bombings.
Such gatherings are important. They allow those most deeply affected to express their grief and to acknowledge their loss, yet again, but also to help each other and feel the solidarity unique to those suffering the same pain.
But the next big public milestone anniversary, whether it be a 15th or a 20th year, is a long way off. For some families there won’t be a next one because they have decided to draw a line in the sand now. What is to become of Bali’s broken hearts?
Many are travelling pretty well these days, considering what they have been through; others less so.
Many feel 10 years is long enough; it’s time to turn a new page and get on with their lives. But brave words and strong intentions are one thing; carrying them out is another.
“Closure is a funny word,” said Adam Condon, making his first trip back to Bali since helping to identify six dead teammates from Sydney’s Coogee Dolphins rugby league team, including his best friend Josh Iliffe.
“I don’t think there is such a thing as closure,” he said, a sentiment echoed time and again by bereaved families.
He went back to the morgue at Denpasar’s Sanglah hospital, where body bags and body parts were piled up in the grim aftermath of the bombings in 2002.
“It’s just something I wanted to get off my back,” he said.
“I can’t really put words to it. Walking through here was overwhelming. I felt sick to my stomach as soon as I walked in.”
Did it help? “That remains to be seen.”
The extent of the collective trauma is difficult to quantify, but 88 Australians were among the 202 dead. Multiply that figure by all of their family members and close friends, and it’s clear those profoundly affected number in their hundreds and even thousands.
Some family members blame grief for adding to the toll.
Christine Rowland, of Melbourne, whose 33-year-old sister Bronwyn was killed in the terrorist attacks, said: “Mum died two years later of a broken heart, so we lost both of them.”
Danny Hanley, who lost his daughters Renae and Simone, spoke at the service, urging mourners to “leave the broken, irreversible past in God’s hands, and step into an invincible future with him”.
But he told a reporter later he would have expected a lot more healing in 10 years, saying: “A lot of parents feel the same way. Time will never heal them. Families still feel terribly hurt and robbed. Another 10 years onwards it won’t make any difference to me. I just can’t get it out of the back of my mind.”
Harry Wallace, from Byron Bay, NSW, also lost a daughter, 29-year-old Jodi. “She had only been here a few hours,” he said. “She didn’t even get to sleep in the bed (in the room) she had booked into. That’s a pretty hard thing to live with.”
Julia Gillard noted how the survivors and families, all this time later, were still at different stages of grief.
She attended last Friday’s commemoration as prime minister, having just avoided the bombings as a tourist, ending a holiday with her sister and a nephew the day before.
“Nothing can replace the empty seats at your family table, the graduations and christenings you will never know,” she said, but there was a “grim reassurance” in knowing the terrorists did not achieve what they set out to do.
Former prime minister John Howard told the gathering: “A decade on, we renew that effort of comfort and compassion and struggle to understand the continuing pain.”
The media has been full of stories of that pain.
Norelle Quayle, whose husband Simon coached Perth’s Kingsley football club, which lost seven players, told how she recently opened a box of newspaper clippings she had put away for her husband. “I opened it and read everything, and I finally realised how terrible it was,” she said.
For Pat Paltridge, a Kingsley mother whose 20-year-old son Corey died on the dance floor of the Sari Club, the penny didn’t seem to drop until someone talked to her about the 10th anniversary.
“It was like it was finally real, that before I didn’t believe it had happened,” she said. “So this year is probably the hardest for me.”
The Kingsley clubhouse will always be open on October 12, the date of the bombings, for survivors to return for a barbecue and a “huddle” together after 11pm, the time of the bomb blasts.
“We’ve said that we’ll keep opening the doors until nobody turns up,” said club organiser Jan Pearce, whose son Duane survived the bombings. “I think that’ll be a while yet.”
Daniel “Shorty” Mortonsen found he had to put physical distance between himself and his old football club, the Dolphins, so he shifted from Sydney to Perth.
He and Adam Condon visited “ground zero” in Kuta’s narrow main street, where they placed six cans of beer, one for each of their dead teammates, at the Bali memorial.
“I bet they’ve opened a nightclub up there, and they’re all drinking beer,” he said, glancing at the sky. “And by the time we get up there they won’t let us in, because we’ll be too old.”