Former College of Charleston student died in nightclub explosion
Friday, October 25, 2002
BY SARAH LUNDY
Of The Post and Courier Staff
Many talk of Joe Milligan's fearlessness toward life.
Skydiving, snowboarding, scuba diving, sailing - he enjoyed it all.
But nothing compared to his passion for surfing, a love that led him from the College of Charleston to Australia, where he found the waves he longed to ride all his life. He also shared his adventures through e-mails, including his latest surfing tales from Bali.
Then the e-mails stopped.
Shortly before midnight Oct. 12, a bomb exploded outside a packed night club in Bali, killing more than 187 people, including seven Americans. Only two Americans' remains have been identified.
Milligan is believed to be among the five who are still missing and presumed dead, according to his family and friends, some of whom are gathering on Folly Beach this weekend to remember him.
"He charged life and didn't look back," said his friend, Jordan Pate, who met Milligan at the college and later joined him in Australia.
Milligan's loved ones take comfort in knowing the 23-year-old lived his life to the fullest, including his last surfing adventure to Bali before returning to the states.
He, like hundreds of others, often spent the evenings hanging out at Club Sari, a Bali nightspotpopular with the hundreds of thousands of young backpackers and surfers in Bali. He planned to meet friends at the club before the terrorist attack.
Now, his family and friends are dealing with their loss.
"This is really painful. He was like my brother. I was just lucky to have been his friend," Pate said in a phone call from Australia.
On Saturday, his friends in Charleston plan to gather at 5 p.m. at the Folly Beach washout - Milligan's favorite spot in Charleston - to remember their laid-back friend who loved the feel of the waves.
"I think he would like that," said Jon Puckett, another friend from Orlando who attended the college with Milligan.
Wanting to leave Florida and remain close to the ocean, Milligan attended the College of Charleston between 1997 and 1999. He moved to Australia for a year as part of a study-abroad program, Puckett said.
In 2000, he came back to Charleston for a semester before returning to Australia where he recently graduated from Bond University.
He talked about coming back to the states for good around Christmas and looking for a job in California.
"I think he was ready for something new," Puckett said.
Word of Milligan's fate began spreading shortly after the explosion.
Pate expected Milligan, whose trip was ending soon, to e-mail him with information about when to pick him up from the airport in Australia, he said.
The e-mail never came.
"After that, I started getting worried," said Pate, who began calling Bali hotels.
Someone at Milligan's hotel told Pate that his belongings remained untouched. Milligan's parents in Orlando, Fla., also heard from a friend who had been with Milligan earlier that night and knew that he was in the club when the bomb went off, Pate said.
"(His parents) have been giving me comfort here," Pate said. "His mother is really encouraging."
Back in Charleston, Puckett, who was moving into a new house, had not even heard about the Bali explosion until about three days later. He knew through Milligan's descriptive e-mails of his latest surfing stories that his friend was in Bali.
In a panic, he called Pate, who told him what he had feared.
Throughout the week, Puckett took on the grim task of letting Milligan's friends in Charleston know what happened to the man they describe as loyal, adventurous, funny and, of course, fearless.
Blair Reid Wilson remembered hiring Milligan along with Pate and Puckett as her first employees when she opened her surfing shop Quiksilver on King Street.
"He was a fun guy to be around," she said. "The girls would come into the store just to see Joe."
Jay Dixon, a longtime friend from Orlando who also attended College of Charleston, said he never will forget what a great friend Milligan was to him. He remembered when he arrived in Charleston and didn't know many people, Milligan invited him into his circle of friends.
"It's a tragedy he was taken by such a mindless act of terrorism," he said.
Despite the horror of Milligan's death, some find a little peace knowing the young man was embracing life exactly the way he wanted.
"He carried the spirit of the ocean," Pate said. "Now, the ocean carries him."
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