Within the tourist district of Kuta is an unlikely landmark. In the middle of shops, restaurants and business establishments such as Viper, Sky Lounge and MBarGo, is a simple memorial that commemorates the most violent bombing that hit the beautiful island of Bali: the Bali Bomb Memorial.
On October 12, 2002, terrorists bombed the busy business district that killed 202 people and injured 240. Among the dead are 88 Australians. There were three bombs: one inside a backpack carried by a suicide bomber, a car bomb, and a smaller bomb placed just outside the United States embassy in the capital city of Denpasar. The third bomb caused only minor damages while the first two combined to inflict what was clearly the deadliest act of terrorism not just in the island but in all of Indonesia.
The violent Islamist group, Jemaah Islamiya, claimed responsibility for this act of terrorism. Three group members were apprehended and sentenced to death, while the group’s spiritual leader, Abu Bakar Bashir, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. Although he served only 18 months of those 2 1/2 years, he is now serving a 15-year conviction for approving the jihad in Bali, although he was in a way only indirectly involved in the actual event. Another high-profile Islamist leader now serving time is Riduan Isamuddin, although it was not made clear if his conviction was related to the Bali bombing. The three group members were Imam Samudra, Amrozi Nurhasyim, and Huda bin Abdul Haq. They were executed by firing squad on November 9, 2008. On March 9, 2010, almost eight years after the horrific bombing, the supposed “Genius” of the attack, Dulmatin, was finally identified but was killed in a shoot-out in Jakarta. It was only in 2010 that Bali locals and tourists felt safe to walk the streets of Kuta again, although no similar attempts have been made in the island anytime after 2002.
Although the bombing was the darkest moment in the history of the island, it also had a few bright moments when true-to-life heroes stepped up. Kusitino Helimai, manager of the Bounty Hotel situated near the bombing epicenter, decided to open the hotel to shelter survivors immediately after the blasts. He is an Australian citizen and was honored by the Australian government with a Medal of the Order of Australia Award in 2005. Also honored with the same award were Richard Poore and wife Gilana Poore for helping the people inside the Bounty Hotel. Another Order of Australia Medal recipient was James Parkinson, an emergency nurse who tirelessly treated bomb victims in the Denpasar Sanglah Hospital.
Today, the business and tourist center of Kuta has fully recovered. The epicenter, more popularly known as Ground Zero, is marked by plants, a tiled road, a circle that marks the exact location of the bomb, and marble wall on which are written the names of the victims. Tourists and visitors may freely walk through the Bali Bomb Memorial and honor the victims by silently reading their names and taking pictures. Special ceremonies are held on October 12.