The sun was out, the temperature was a balmy 32°C, and it was Saturday—although that didn't really matter because to the 1.6 million yearly visitors to Indonesia's most alluring tropical paradise, every day is a Saturday and every night a freewheeling Saturday night.
The surf was up too, which did matter to Chris Beirne, a 47-year-old nursing-home worker on holiday from Mermaid Beach, Australia. Beirne loves Bali so much he overstayed his visa on his first visit back in 1974 and was deported after four blissful months. He has returned more than a dozen times.
That day, Beirne rode the morning swells at Nusa Dua, where the hard-core surfers go. (By comparison, the surf at Kuta, the crowded party town that pulls most of the island's vacationers, is a gentler beach break.) He went with his pal Cooper from Maui, Hawaii, and a brand-new acquaintance from Zimbabwe named Pat. On the beach, the three guys met two girls from the Canary Islands, and arranged to hook up later that night at Paddy's Irish Pub in Kuta. "I caught one really nice wave that made me happy," Beirne recalls. "But I came in after a couple more. I didn't have much energy, and I thought, 'Oh, I'm going out tonight.'"
For businessman Kadek Wiranatha, Saturday was just another workday, although an important one. Kadek, 47, is the king of Kuta, the owner of many of the hotels and restaurants that cater to Bali's foreign guests, including Paddy's, a bar known for its straight-to-the-beer attitude. He employs 3,000 and works late into the night. So on Oct. 12, Kadek woke at his customary 11:00 a.m., in time for a lunch meeting to discuss his newest venture: Air Paradise, an airline dedicated to bringing tourists to Bali. The company had already sold 12,000 tickets, mostly in Australia, and service to that country was scheduled to begin Oct. 27—just 15 days away. "The planes were arriving in a few days," he recalls. "We were making plans for our launch party. The mood was very upbeat and exciting. We knew that Bali's first international airline was going to be a success."
When the sun is up, Kuta's narrow lanes wear a ramshackle, shabby and hungover look. But all that disappears at sunset, when the music starts pounding again from the tile- or thatch-roofed bars and discos and the backpackers and surfers in beach clothes start careening from bar to bar, beer bottles in hand. The main action is on Jalan Legian, the Sunset Strip of Kuta, lined with bars, restaurants and hawkers shilling knockoff clothes.
Paddy's is popular, but there's more action across the road at the Sari Club, which has three bars, a dance floor and a younger crowd. Putu Ayu Sila Prihanadewi, 21, was working the night shift on Saturday. She was one of two cashiers at the half-moon-shaped bar on the club's north side. She liked the job and was engaged to be married in November. Ayu was so busy ringing up VBs and Jell-O shots and fish bowls that she didn't realize the evening was getting on. By 10 p.m., the joint was already packed. A rugby tournament, the Bali Tens, was being played that weekend, and ruggers from Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Jakarta were converging on the Sari Club. Sun-drenched Australian teenagers in board shorts and halter tops bumped and ground to blasting house music. Surfy girls followed surfy boys into the bathrooms to get naughty. The Kingsley Football Club from Perth had just arrived. Corey Paltridge, a 20-year-old glazier, was the known life of the party, and he had cleared the dance floor for his favorite party trick: an air guitar impression of Angus Young, leader of Australia's AC/DC rock band.
A kilometer away, Haji Agus Bambang Priyanto was concerned that it was getting late. Haji Bambang is the head of the traffic and transport department, a position of some standing in a town like Kuta. At home with his wife, Haji Bambang became strangely agitated when he realized it was 10:30. His 15-year-old son Wisnu, who worked at a restaurant near the Sari Club, hadn't returned home. "Why is it your son is not here yet?" he scolded his wife. "It is late!" His wife told him to take it easy, and reminded him that Wisnu was getting old enough to stay out later, but Haji Bambang wouldn't relent. He had his wife send Wisnu's cell phone a text message: "Wisnu go home. Daddy is very mad." The son obeyed, coming home at about 11.
Naseema Theile, 30, had just wound up a dinner party at her vaulted, Middle Eastern-style home in Seminyak, two villages away. Theile was a beautiful German expatriate living on an inheritance with her two-year-old daughter Shana. Tonight she was entertaining a close friend from Germany, along with two buddies from the island: Deborah Lea Snodgrass, a 33-year-old American teacher, and Ecuadorian Ana Cecilia Avilés, a 46-year-old engineer. When dinner finished, Theile insisted the four go to the Sari Club for drinks. The women hopped on their motorbikes, arriving at the bar around 10:50.
Australians Tansen and Mira Stannard were also transplants to Bali: the couple had lived here for three years, ever since their guru in India died. Tansen, 57, is a doctor of alternative medicine ("an excellent acupuncturist," says a Bali expat), and 65-year-old Mira is a midwife who specializes in natural water births. On Saturday night they were in the center of Kuta's revel with their 25-year-old grandson Sai at the inauguration of a clothing store five doors from the Sari Club. The owners were friends from Brazil. That's the only reason they were there. The Stannards weren't into VBs and Jell-O shots. Jalan Legian wasn't their scene.
Indonesian and Australian investigators both say there were three bombs planted in Kuta: two smaller devices outside Paddy's and the Sari Club, and a larger cache of explosives driven up Jalan Legian in a Mitsubishi L-300 minivan. The first analysis showed the bombs had traces of four explosives: RDX, AMX, ammonium nitrate and the plastic explosive C-4, which is used by militaries worldwide—and terrorists too. Investigators don't yet know how the devices were detonated, or by whom. They do know the explosions occurred between 11:05 and 11:15—in a lethally precise sequence.
Surfer Beirne got to Paddy's just minutes before. "I greeted the security man at the front door," he says. "I walked up the north side of the bar. At the back there was this group of guys, big guys. There were three pretty girls, blond. Pat from Zimbabwe waved at me. I went over. We were sitting real close together. I was looking directly at the bar. Then—Boom!—there was a flash, a little bit yellow and white at the top. It looked like there were two little flashes but it might have been my eyes. Everybody was silhouetted, all the heads. I remember I was on the floor. And I heard another—Boom! That was the bomb at the Sari Club. In between the first bomb and the next there was three seconds. I saw all the people running toward the door, a mass of people. I remember seeing flames on the roof. I leapt over a fence. At that instant the big bomb went off. I must have leapt just as it had gone off or just prior. I landed and looked both ways down the street. There was carnage. The security guard who had greeted me at the gate was sitting on the curb, covered in blood. I crouched down to see if he was O.K. He was calm and just staring out into the road. A girl ran up to me and asked me, 'Where have you been, where have you been?' I said, 'I was in Paddy's.' And she was screaming, 'My mother, my mother was in there. My mother.'"
In the Sari Club moments before, Ayu had been behind her cash register, enjoying the scene. She didn't hear the blast before she was thrown to the floor and momentarily knocked unconscious. When she came to, she was sitting on a pile of ice that had spilled out of a nearby bin. "It was cold," she remembers. The bar and her cash register were gone—along with the throng of customers that had been on the other side.
Several survivors recall that the first thing they noticed was an eerie darkness: the bombs cut off the power supply. Some looked up from the floor to see the Bali night sky through the blown-off roofs of buildings, the only illumination coming from fires ignited by the blast. For many, there was a morbid silence: their eardrums had ruptured.
"It was hell on earth," says William Cabler, a 42-year-old surfer from California who was in the Sari Club. "All I saw was people burning, little girls with their hair on fire trying to put it out, and I'm telling them to run." He survived the inferno by breaking his way through a fence. "I just kept hitting it, hitting it and hitting it, broke my shoulder, but I got the fence open and I think a lot of people escaped behind me."
David Fielder, a 46-year-old British rugby referee from Hong Kong who honeymooned in Bali 18 years before, said that getting through the corpses scattered around Paddy's was like a rugby game in hell. He tripped and rolled over some dead bodies. "It was beyond description," he says. "The only thing I could think of was whether I would see my family." According to Dr. Leslie Kuek, a Singaporean plastic surgeon who flew to Bali to help survivors, the concussive blast of the big bomb probably ruptured the internal organs of many of the people inside the club; the fires that followed burnt them alive.
Businessman Kadek was in another of his restaurants across town when he heard the blasts. Almost immediately, he received a call from the Paddy's doorman. "I said, 'What do you mean a bomb?'" He quickly phoned a bigger bar he owns called Double Six and had it shut down. Then he sped home and spent the next few hours calling families to check up on his staff at Paddy's.
Kuta's traffic chief Haji Bambang felt the blasts at his home, looked outside, and saw a huge, yellow, billowing mushroom cloud. Within 15 minutes he had gathered members of an Islamic community group he heads and was on the scene. He watched a car explode into a ball of flame in front of the Sari Club. He heard screaming, lots of screaming, mostly from the mouths of foreign tourists. "Help me," they pleaded. "Oh my God. Help me."
He came across an Australian man whose legs were missing. No one had a stretcher, so Haji Bambang instructed two of his charges to grab the wailing man under his arms and by the waist to carry him from the fires. Turning around, he found a woman with a breast missing. Haji Bambang could see she was traumatized for she appeared to be screaming but no sound was coming out. She had shouted herself hoarse.
When Australian acupuncturist Tansen and his grandson Sai picked themselves off the floor of the just opened clothing shop, they saw Mira, Tansen's wife, on the ground with a slab of concrete on her back. Sai lifted the block off his grandmother. The street outside was chaos. A wall of flame was moving down the street, and the family started running to where their car was parked. Sai looked back. In the flames he saw people on fire attempting to crawl over the beams of a bamboo roof. When the family reached their car, a young man ran toward them, skin melting off his arms and back. They helped him into the car. On the ride to the hospital, the family did its best to keep talking, lying to the stranger—telling him they were almost at the hospital though they were stuck in a traffic jam. "He was screaming so loud," recalls Sai. They were able to get his name: Phil Britten, 22-year-old captain of the Kingsley football team. He had been watching teammate Paltridge doing his AC/DC act on the dance floor when the bombs went off. They took him to the nearby Bali Clinic where they poured saline solution on his back.
By midnight, police and fire fighters had reached the street. Traffic head Haji Bambang coordinated the evacuation of the injured to local hospitals and clinics, making the trip back and forth for hours. "We were trying to get the victims out because of the danger of explosions—gas canisters in the bar, the Freon in the air conditioners—and of the roofs falling down," he says. He admits that he and his team were afraid of being injured. "But we were inspired by the American fire fighters who were willing to sacrifice themselves when the World Trade Center was bombed, so we wanted to do the same."
Heiress Theile and her three female friends had walked right into the impending inferno. Theile's German visitor was badly burned; American Snodgrass suffered fatal wounds from flying debris. Avilés, the friend from Ecuador, was also gravely injured. When rescue workers moved her to the alley behind the Sari Club, one of her lungs was punctured and she made sucking sounds when she breathed. The workers put a plastic bag over the wound to prevent the lung from collapsing. When an ambulance finally arrived, it seemed Avilés had a chance. But by the time she was lifted into the ambulance she had died. The fate of Theile herself would not be known for hours.
Nyoman Sudirka, the 21-year-old fiancé of Sari Club cashier Ayu, was frantic when he heard of the bombings. His first thought was to make a wish: "I hope my girlfriend is O.K." Nyoman and his friends drove a flatbed truck to the scene. They loaded as many injured as they could, while Nyoman searched vainly for his fiancé. An hour went by before Nyoman finally got a call from a friend saying Ayu was alive. He rushed to a nearby clinic where she was waiting to be treated for a burn on her left forearm. Nyoman yelled at the nurses, "Why don't you treat her? I'll pay you whatever you want, just treat her." Nyoman says many bule, or foreigners, were being treated first. Ayu says her injuries just weren't as severe.
Nick Burgoyne, a 38-year-old Yorkshire native who adopted Bali as his home, found out about the bombings at 12:30 a.m. He grabbed his digital camera and went to Jalan Legian, later selling some of his photos to newspapers and the BBC. Then he went to Sanglah Hospital, the chaotic center of the race to save lives. In the emergency room, Burgoyne sat down next to Martin, a Brazilian in his thirties, who had more than 30 holes in his face from glass that shattered in the bombings. Burgoyne met a couple of vacationing physicians from Australia who had come to help: Pria, an anesthesiologist, and Veej, a plastic surgeon specializing in the treatment of burns. Some of the staff at Sanglah were already delirious from overwork, so Burgoyne helped Pria and Veej clean and dress burns.
Jodie O'Shea, 29, a former publishing assistant in Sydney who had recently opened her own small business, had severe burns on her arms that were filling with fluid. She couldn't feel her fingers; if left unattended, the swelling would have cut off the blood flow to her hands. The two doctors performed emergency surgery, slicing through the skin. Jodie said she felt better: she didn't notice the absence of anaesthetic.
After attending several similar operations, Burgoyne went back to chat with Jodie. "She was the girl next door," he says. "She was so sweet." As they were talking, Jodie started to slip into a coma. Burgoyne and the two doctors started frantically pumping saline into her. She slipped in and out of coma for the next few hours. When the Australian medical evacuation planes arrived Sunday evening, Burgoyne wheeled Jodie out of Sanglah to a waiting ambulance and tearfully said goodbye.
At 2:16, Haji Bambang was standing between the Sari Club and Paddy's and he felt something on his foot. He thought it was a stick and kicked it away. A moment later he felt it again. He looked down, and found a finger reaching up out of a manhole trying to grab his shoe. He squatted and looked into the sewer. To his mystification, a Chinese- or Japanese-looking woman was inside. His group lifted her out and carried her to an ambulance. Haji Bambang didn't catch her name, but found out later that she had been evacuated to Singapore. (The woman was either Kaho Brown, 28, or Ayano Saito, 30, Japanese sisters who were the only East Asian women to be medevacked to Singapore. By late last week, both were alive but in intensive care and heavily sedated.)
Around 3:00, the second phase began: carting away corpses and body parts. "There were so many bodies," says Haji Bambang. "A lot of skin peeled away. Bodies without limbs, missing heads. Whatever we found nearby we put with the remains." Haji Bambang was helped through the night by 32-year-old Gung Tresna, the head lifeguard at Kuta beach, who rallied his 12 guards to help evacuate the wounded and, later, collect the dead. Witnesses say Gung Tresna was respectful and gentle—very Balinese—with the corpses. He ordered sheets, blankets and tablecloths to be taken from nearby hotels and restaurants. Every time a body was found, Gung Tresna carefully laid a piece of cloth over it and covered the victim's face. "You must do this for people who die," he says, "to give them respect. In death, money doesn't matter, material possessions don't matter, dignity is what we should care about."
Businessman Kadek stopped making calls around then. He spent the next few hours praying and meditating—hoping for answers to the awful questions that the whole world would soon start asking. Kadek insists Air Paradise will commence flights to Korea and Taiwan in December as originally planned, but if Australians obey their country's Indonesia travel warning, his airline will be hard-pressed to lift off.
Surfer Beirne went back to his hotel after escaping the blasts. "When I got back I woke up my friend. 'We must go back down there,' I said. But he said no. He wanted nothing to do with it. I should have gone and helped. I was all right." Beirne's voice gets shaky, his cheeks redden and his eyes well up with tears. "I was able-bodied."
Between 5:00 and 6:00, Haji Bambang, who is a Muslim, went looking for a quiet place to pray. Every inch of his pants and short-sleeve shirt was stained with other people's blood, but he knew Allah would understand why he was unclean. Allah would accept his prayers. So there in a parking lot, 100 meters from an infernal scene of death and destruction, Haji Bambang knelt down among the shards of glass and conducted his first prayer of the day. At 7:00, someone brought a change of clothes. Haji Bambang removed the blood-caked shirt and pants and donned a pair of camo-pants and a dark T shirt. He has washed the clothes he was wearing that night, and will keep them as a reminder. He plans to put them on again next Oct. 12 to commemorate the horrors of that night.
On Sunday morning, Naseema Theile's maid Moyan awoke to find that her employer hadn't returned home. Moyan immediately went to the morgue at Sanglah. Looking across the sea of mangled bodies, she found the formerly vivacious Theile still and cold. Nonetheless, according to the maid, Theile was still beautiful—her's was the only face in the gruesome collection that was untouched, untortured, still pristine.
Gung Tresna stayed on the scene until 3:00 Sunday afternoon, when exhaustion kicked in. "I wanted to keep going," he said, "but I could not continue." He went home but was too restless to sleep. When he closed his eyes, he would replay the horrific scenes from the night before. Television was running news reports nonstop about the blasts. So Gung Tresna sat with his family, had a drink of water and tried his best not to think about anything at all.
The day after the bombings, Australia sent three military C-130 transport planes to airlift foreigners from Bali. At the same time, a reverse flow was occurring: people flying to Bali, mainly from Australia, to try to find their friends or relatives—or collect their remains.
Ayu the cashier left the hospital on Wednesday, her burned arm slowly healing underneath a yellow mat of dried pus. On Thursday, she and her fiancé Nyoman visited the remains of the Sari Club. Balinese Hindus believe that when a near-fatal event occurs, a piece of the soul is left behind; the survivor must return to the site to reclaim that lost fragment. Ayu and her family ducked under the yellow crime-scene tape and placed their canangs, or offerings, of rice and flowers in front of the mangled skeleton of a Toyota Kijang minivan. Ayu broke down. Her cheeks reddened and her hands shook. Nyoman was in better spirits. He and his friends lugged a whole roast pig to the shell of the Sari Club—his offering to the gods to thank them for a wish granted.
Jodie O'Shea, the burn victim helped by Burgoyne and the two vacationing physicians, died of kidney failure in her mother's arms in a Perth hospital. The body of Corey Paltridge, whom everyone was watching dancing on the Sari club dance floor when the bombs went off, was identified in a Kuta morgue and flown back to Australia. His parents say they are still planning to celebrate their son's 21st birthday on Nov. 6. His teammate Phil Britten, saved by Tansen and Mira Stannard, was evacuated to Perth on Monday. The couple got an update by telephone from his grandmother. "You people are angels," she told them. Phil will be all right, the grandmother said, adding with a stiff upper lip: "Nothing that he can't get over." For so many others that night, the losses were too painful to ever be overcome.