JIMBARAN (Bali) - Ten years ago this month, many of them rushed to Bali, anxious about the safety of their loved ones after terrorists set off bombs that killed 202 people and devastated the resort island's economy.
Yesterday, some 1,000 Indonesians, Australians and others gathered in calmer circumstances at a memorial service for the victims of the Bali bombings, who hailed from 22 countries.
A light drizzle did not deter the survivors, who streamed into the open-air plaza at the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Park, some with scars - physical and emotional - that have never fully healed.
But on this 10th anniversary, some hoped to find closure, even as layers of security checks were a reminder that the terrorist threat that cost them their loved ones still exists. Police and soldiers lined major streets and closed roads in the centre of Kuta, ahead of a separate, more private commemoration by families at the Bali blast memorial late into the night.
Warnings of attempts by radicals to target the event also cast a pall. More than half the white-draped chairs were empty.
"It is not easy to forget the tragedy, however, it is time to forgive," Bali Governor I Made Mangku Pastika said at the ceremony. The retired police general led the probe into the Bali bombings.
Guests were seen holding back tears as student Made Bagus Arya Dana, 12, read a "Letter for Daddy". His father, Mr Gede Badrawan, was killed in the blast.
"I promise to end my lingering here," he said. "I will gain my lost future back, I will make all your dreams come true. And I will take care of mum for you."
Said Australian Danny Hanley, who lost daughters Renae and Simone in the bombings: "It is true we have lost loved ones who will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into constructive thoughtfulness for the future."
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, on behalf of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the people of Indonesia, paid tribute to "individuals whose bravery and compassion saved lives and provided solace to the bereaved". The event, he added, was a chance to commit "to fight extremism and intolerance in all its forms", and "see to it that the voice of reason prevails against prejudice, so that humanity prevails over hatred".
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said that though the attacks inflicted pain and grief, it was clear they had failed.
"Today, we return here in remembrance, but we also gather in quiet defiance," she said.
Hindu, Muslim and Christian leaders read blessings. The names of the dead were read out, after which dignitaries and relatives placed flowers in a pool as a gamelan orchestra performed. John Lennon's Imagine was played. Many teared up as they filed past photos of loved ones on their way out.
Electrician Todd Busby, 34, who lives in Perth, survived the blasts with bruises and was among the more than 200 survivors present. "It is humbling, I just wanted to pay my respects and give thanks for being alive."
Before the sun set, some 100 surfers headed out from Kuta beach and formed a heart. The local community and some victims' families also released 202 turtles into the sea as the sun set.
After dark, survivors and victims' families gathered at the blast site to lay flowers and light candles. Around them, the streets, shops and nightspots were packed, in a sign that Bali would not be cowed by terror.