AFTER THE FALL
Where do we stand in the wake of Bali's terrorist attacks
October 29, 2002 Seventeen days -- barely two weeks -- and it's as if the whole Bali disaster never happened. Island detectives may still be searching for suspects, but headlines back home are already back to hunting down local snipers and targeting Saddam. However, while America's moved on to more pressing battles in the war on terrorism, hundreds of people both in an Indo and around the world are only now beginning to truly deal with the aftermath of that single night on October 12.
Most notably, besides the Balinese themselves, there's the families of those who were killed or remain lost. The count for America is still three dead and five missing, and of those killed, two were surfers, one of which you may not have heard of. Joe Milligan of Orlando, Florida was only confirmed dead five days after the attacks, by which time the media frenzy had already subsided. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the 24 year-old had just graduated from Bond University in Brisbane, Australia and was going one last big trip. Described as "fearless" by friends and family, Milligan had apparently gotten the barrel of his life in the days before he died, and the fact that he passed away doing what he loved is some solace for his parents and the sister who survive him.
As the first confirmed loss, Orange County, California's Steve Webster served as the very face of the tragedy for many Americans. According to John Parodi, who was in Indo with Webby as he celebrated his 41st birthday and searched for him for two days after the attack, the Newport Beach local was "an unconditional friend with a contagious smile." A week after the attacks, hundreds of Orange County supporters joined Webby's wife, five year-old son and teenage daughter for a paddle-out ceremony in Newport on October 19.
"It was bitchin," says Parodi, "We had a big circle and then eight or ten of us who had leis on got in the middle and said some words. There was so much energy, I trunked it and didn't even feel the water. "
Unable to join the paddle-out because of his injuries, Steve Cabler watched from the beach and says the ceremony provided some closure and was great way to honor his friend who died as he chose to live. Cabler was actually in the Sari Club when the blasts occurred, and saw his friend Webster collapse under the fiery wreckage. He was also the first US citizen to return from Indonesia. As such, he faced scores of reporters at the airport and his home. But even as the attention has died down, Cabler feels it's imperative to get the word out about the attacks snd he's continuing to do interviews for mags and television, including a November episode of Dr. Phil.
"I'm going to try and talk to as many people as I can because I think that Americans need to know the high level of danger," Cabler insists. "You gotta understand this could happen anywhere. And we need to get it out to people because if we just sit around, they're going to keep attacking us."
Even as he looks to safeguard the future for others, Cabler is recovering from an assortment of injuries. Upon his return, Cabler recounted how he broke his shoulder busting open a back door to the club and escape the blaze which licked at his body. And while his physical wounds will surely heal, he says "the jury is out" as to what lies ahead.
"Well I sing in a band. and I'm very concerned for my hearing since my left hear pretty much got liquidated.' Cabler laments "I have some third degree burns on my hands and I broke my scapula. But my mental thing is what is mostly screwy. I mean, we were on a surf trip, we were not there to get bombed. I mean, you're sitting there having a beer and surfing and all of a sudden you're in a war zone."
"War zone" is the exact term Outer Banks surfer Ashley Heath used to describe the carnage he saw while scouring six Balinese hospitals for David Creecy the day after the event. A fellow Outer Banker, Creecy was another Americans survivor and surfer. His story received little national attention but is the big regional news with Virginia Beach and North Carolina charities raising more thean $40,000 to help with the 49-year-old's staggering medical expenses. Suffering burns over 60 percent of his body, Creecy was first evacuated by plane to Singapore for emergency treatment, incurring a $20,000 for the flight alone. From there, the expenses continued to grow as US officials then sent a private jet to retrieve Creecy and send him to UNC Chapel Hill's Medical Center where he remains today. Heath stayed with him through out the ordeal, and after a recent visit says he's made marked improvement.
"He's' doing good," Heath reported on Monday. "Yesterday was the first time I heard him really talk but I think he'll make a fast recovery because he's in incredible shape. We're hoping he'll be out by Christmas."
"It's hardest to see the family," Heath continues. "Dave has a wife and two children, and nobody wants to see their dad look like that, but then they hadn't seen him before."
According to Heath, Creecy was virtually unrecognizable when they first found him. And Parodi's still suffering nightmares from his gruesome search through countless bodybags. But surprisingly, despite the harrowing memories, most of the survivors we spoke with said they would return to Bali. For Heath, it's necessary to get back to resume his export trade. But he also believes returning to business is just as necessary for the Balinese. "You gotta go back," he insists. "If you don't go back, people are going to starve."
And for Parodi, it's the relationships he forged during the tragedy itself that makes him feel like he must visit again.
"I'm going to have to," he explains "I made some really good friends. These two kids, Joe and Novas, were like my brothers. They stuck with me 24/7, looking for Crabby [Cabler] and getting him to the hospital; looking for Webby. I couldn't have done it alone."
Such stories of Balinese selflessness are exactly what's made the island such a special place for so many. In fact, the Hindus' generous culture is the very reason many feel the island will one day recover. And if a message issued by Kuta's Village Council for the media is any indication, they already are:
"It is not only nuclear bombs which have fallout. It is our job to minimize this fallout for our people and our guests from around the world. Who did this? It's not such an important question for us to discuss. Why this happened - maybe this is more worthy of thought. What can we do to create beauty from this tragedy and come to an understanding where nobody feels the need to make such a statement again? This is important. This is the basis from which we can embrace everyone as a brother; everyone as a sister. If we can Love all of our brothers and sisters, we have already begun to move into Kertha Yuga. We have already won 'The War Against Terrorism'" -- Matt Walker
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