Bali 2002: Some will find healing – others may find it triggering

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On October 12, 2002, around 11 p.m., the first of three separate bombs exploded when a suicide bomber broke into Paddy’s Bar in Kuta, Bali.

Shortly after, a bomb exploded outside Sari’s nightclub, setting off a final explosion outside the US consulate.

Stan’s new series, Bali 2002, looks at these attacks and their aftermath. The physical and emotional traumas play out with desperation and intensity.

The series also shows how our humanity is expressed in desperate and violent times. It shows friends helping friends, people helping strangers, doctors on vacation rushing to hospital to lend a hand, and the Australian Federal Police’s instruction to help everyone – not just Australians.

While the creators of the series are to be commended for their close consultation with survivors of the attacks in the making of the series, this dramatization emphasizes the highly public nature of terrorism. This public nature can have very personal consequences.

In my research into the events of this night and their aftermath, I have spoken to many people who were there or lost someone in the attack.

Some survivors will find comfort in sharing their stories; others will struggle with the public memorial.

Share stories

Some people affected by terrorism believe that telling their story can be harmful to their health and well-being. It locks them in a time and place of pain and suffering.

For others, telling their stories and the experiences, lives, and deaths of loved ones is an important part of their healing process.

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Kev Paltridge lost his son Corey in the Bali bombings. He told me closing is “bullshit” and he still has “s-bad days”.

But he also said that every time he tells his story, it helps him.

Kev doesn’t shy away from the dark side of his healing journey — the three years of excessive drinking, his continued suffering and grief for Corey — because he knows there were some out there who are still drinking and haven’t found an alternative trajectory yet.

He hopes his story will help others as much as it helps him.

Journalist Nick Way was at the site of the Sari Club bombing hours after the attack. He later worked as one of the producers on the documentary Cry Bali. During this process, working closely with survivors and their families, he told me, “I’ve learned that expressing feelings is often part of the healing journey.”

Before and after

When a terrorist attack occurs, the media can create a sense of a ‘victim’ identity, which divides one’s life into a before and after the terror, as if they were created in that moment.

Bali 2002 buys in this division. It gives the survivors little time for the event, and these characters feel superficial.

The series also struggles to strike the right balance between the stories of the terrorists and those of the survivors. Too much attention is paid to the individuals who carried out these attacks. More important are the stories of the victims, survivors, relatives and aid workers.

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For some survivors I’ve spoken to, the trailer alone has triggered traumatic reactions. Their ability to watch the series is questionable.

The series weaves together a dramatization of the events with real images. These raw footage adds realism, but the use of these footage isn’t signposted, and it can even trigger survivors who feel like watching a dramatized version of the events.

Endurance

Bali 2002 being released ahead of the 20th anniversary of the attacks.

In my research, by recognizing and remembering these events on fewer, more “important” anniversaries, I found that we reject the experience of living with terror after the experience of an event.

All the survivors I’ve talked to endure it every day. Kev told me he speaks to his son “every morning without fail.”

This stamina must be recognized and acknowledged.

The stories of their survival could have been stories of revenge and hatred, and the promotion of more violence.

Instead, I have overwhelmingly found that these stories are about hope and responsibility.

Nick told me he thinks “about building a new future for the people who feel oppressed and disadvantaged so that they [less] open to radicalization”.

These are not gooey stories about closing or forgiving or forgetting. They are about living with and promoting an awareness of the effects these attacks have on everyday individual life.

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Lasting Effects

Every single person I’ve spoken to is still deeply moved by their experience.

Bali 2002 takes us from the weeks before the bombing to the death of bomber Husin in 2005. Viewers with little connection to the event will more than likely walk away without understanding how survivors, their relatives, and first responders are still affected two decades later.

A terrorist attack is a moment when one is rendered powerless. A person is subject to the will of the terrorist. It’s so far out of normal day-to-day experiences that it can cause a deep identity shift.

My research shows that survivors of terrorism, their families and first responders need to find a way to integrate the experience into their later lives.

Sometimes they walk gracefully over the tightrope and are well balanced, other times they find no footing and swing dangerously over the abyss.

I hope some will find peace and healing in the broadcast of Bali 2002 and sharing these stories, but this won’t be for everyone.

Bali 2002 can be seen on Stan from September 25.

Carmen Jacquesresearch assistant, Edith Cowan University

This article was republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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