Bali bombings survivor looks ahead as Australia marks 20th anniversary

Bali bombing survivor Hanabeth Luke reading the names of the victims of the terrorist attack at the memorial in Sydney. PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY - Australian Hanabeth Luke remembers crawling through burning rubble and thick acrid black smoke after a bomb exploded at a nightclub in Indonesia's tourist hotspot of Bali 20 years ago.

A total of 202 people, including 88 Australians, were killed when a car bomb exploded on Oct 12, 2002 outside the Sari Club and from another blast less than a minute earlier at Paddy's Bar across the road.

The Jemaah Islamiah, a South-east Asian terrorist network with ties to al-Qaeda, was blamed for the bombings, Indonesia's worst militant attacks.

It remains the single largest lost of life from an act of terror in Australian history.

The country will remember the victims on Wednesday with the government hosting a memorial service at the parliament house in Canberra.

"We can't bring those people back, but we can live the most, the best versions of our lives," Dr Luke, a university lecturer, told Reuters.

Dr Luke, then 22 years old, escaped the burning building through the collapsed roof and scaled a 3m wall over electrical wires to jump to safety, frantically searching for her then partner, Mr Marc Gajado, among the chaos outside.

Mr Gajado, who did not survive the blast, was walking towards the front of the building when the bomb exploded.

As she searched for Mr Gajado, Dr Luke came across badly injured 17-year-old Tom Singer, helping lift him to his feet.

"I said, mate, I don't care if both of your legs are broken, you're going to get up and we're going to use both of our strengths and get you out of here," Dr Luke said.

A photo of Dr Luke helping the severely burnt Mr Singer, who died one month later in hospital, was splashed across newspapers globally after the tragedy, with some calling her the "Angel of Bali".

"The nightmare is that, still 20 years later, Marc's never going to come back," said Dr Luke, who now lives in Evans Head, north of Sydney, with her partner, Kieran, and two children.

"(Marc's) parents will never see him again. Tom Singer's parents, they're the most wonderful people, their whole family, they've been rocked."

In the wake of the Bali attacks and with backing from Australia and the United States, Indonesia set up an elite anti-terrorist unit called Densus 88, which helped weaken the Jemaah Islamiah and resulted in the arrest of hundreds of suspected militants. REUTERS

SPH Brightcove Video
Survivors of the Bali bombing, alongside families and friends of the victims gathered in Australia and Indonesia to mark the 20-year anniversary of the attacks.

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