Terrorism Reaches into our Korean School
Bali Rebuilds after the Bombing
Four months after the October 2002 Bali Bombing it astonished me to discover that so many of my Dongseo U. and Kyungnam College students STILL did not know that Megan Heffernan, our American professor and kindergarten teacher, was murdered in the Bali terrorist bombing of October 12.
Not only Megan but Professor Danny Blundon's wife Moon Eun-young died along with her sister Moon Eun-eong. [A eulogy was printed in pusanweb.com.] These three were the only people from Korea murdered, all connected with our school. One Canadian died. I didn't expect students to mourn these deaths as few of them knew the people personally. I do expect our students to know this happened and to realize that the world at war with terrorism has struck here, right into our city and our campus. Reason enough to think hard and long about these issues.
I went to Bali in January 2003 with Jonathan Mulock, a Nova Scotian friend. Were we moths drawn to a flame? I felt compelled to get closer to the event, to understand. How very disturbing standing there at the bomb site in Kuta Beach. One sees wide destruction quickly being rebuilt. The Balinese of Kuta want to forget this as soon as possible and move on from their pressing economic stress. There on the sidewalk you would also see many wilting flowers, cards, banners, posters and sad little international flags stuck in the dirt. I found a woman's broken sandal sticking out of the mud. It was about to be shoveled into the garbage. I will make a shrine to remember in Canada and burry it there. This I swear.
10:30 pm outside the repaired Dunkin Doughnuts: a local man came to pick up his wife at day's end. He described the steps we sat on from the night of the bombing. "There was a woman's arm on these steps and at the sidewalk a head in a motorcycle helmet." How pathetic. The murderers do not see their work. Many locals died along with the foreign tourists.
What do we give to Megan, Eun-young and Eun-jeong? Our hot and salty tears are offerings to the dead. Months later and they keep coming. We also reflect, write and remember and try to make a kinder, more equal world.
I was surprised at how much this event upset me. All autumn, especially Friday evenings when classes finished, alone in my apartment and vivid imagination took me back to the event, the moment of body destruction. Did they suffer? Did they know life was finished? I didn't know the two Korean sisters and knew Megan just a little. We both taught children at the university language center and sometimes had supper together. I have mourned several friends and family over the years but the murder of a friend/co-worker is hard to accept. Stolen lives.
A church service was held for the living and dead in Busan and a small remembrance service was held at Megan and Danny's office. This helped to put some of the pain and anger behind us. I was told the U.S. State Department transported her belongings back home. Bali is rebuilding, healing too. The very poor of Indonesian don't seem to care too much. They suffer every day and so empathy is minimal. There are many exceptions. Many are ashamed and frightened. Some physically shivered when I told them my friend died here. Others lament their loss of business. Before leaving Korea in January I contacted a local person by internet. Teku is a young educated student and visited us a few times in Kuta Beach. He was nearby with friends the night of the two bombs. His table lifted in the air and everybody laughed and went back to their drinks and conversations. "What was that? Many didn't know what happened and ran down the street to see. Their curiosity sealed their fate when the second bomb went off 15 mins. later. It was calculated to kill many." Such evil intent. Then Teku standing on the sidewalk saw a returning wave of people, "...running back towards me thought the darkened streets, covered in blood." He asked me, "Please change the subject." Having volunteered at a local hospital it was too fresh, too painful to recall images sealed away. Teku originates in north Sumatra's rebellious Ache Province and thus feels his country will fracture, that Indonesia cannot keep the various islands, religions, languages and ethnic groups together. We will watch and see.
The bombing was carried out by angry young men, Java based Muslim extremists. It was clearly a revenge attack aimed at America for the killings in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan. The bombers have stated they were defending Islam, their way of life. Some claim the broader ambition is to expand the Islamic territory in S.E. Asia to include Bali, Singapore and the south islands of the Philippines. Many are now saying we are in an open clash of two cultures, the rich, powerful, commercial and morally lost West against the Muslim World. What did the bomber's accomplish in Bali? They got our attention. They have hurt and angered the western world and made all Indonesians poorer. They made us THINK.
The death toll has climbed. Many of the broken and burned did not manage to survive in western hospitals [Details can be found on internet websites.]. 190 lights went out in Bali, 3 from Korea. For a time our world became a darker place, but..................
Visiting Indonesia.... I would go back to Bali (but not to dangerous Lombok Island).
At the moment visitors to Bali can get hotels and flights very cheaply. Shopping for local products is a bargain indeed as the currency has fallen dramatically. Bali is probably the safest place in Indonesia. This is is a warm, humid, green, friendly and mostly Hindu island. These are some of the most artistic, musical and religious people I have ever met. They tend their shrines thrice daily. Sales people are a bit pushy but you take control after the first day. After all, this is now a buyers market. They need us to come. There are many wonderful things to see and learn: Fruit Bat Temple, Hindu Mother Temple, Balinese music and theater, truly gigantic volcanoes, Reptile Garden, fresh fruits, clean air and tropical flowers. To me a month in Bali is equivalent to a year of learning at University. This is one of the most beautiful islands and the world must not turn away because of this tragedy. Life and love on our wonderful planet goes on and overcomes the dark and irrational.
Prof. Robin T. Day
Former prof. at Dongseo University