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Bali Bombing Remembered One Year Later

Residents of Bali, Indonesia are marking the first anniversary of the Bali bombings with religious commemorations and celebrations of life. The purpose is to remember the 202 people who died in the terrorist attacks in the island's popular nightclub district last October, but also to affirm the continuity of life and the need to move on. VOA Correspondent Scott Bobb has been talking to people who were affected by the attack and reports on several whose lives have been forever changed by the incident.

Ahmad Yusron is a surfer and avowed beach boy who used to make his living renting surfboards on Bali's famous Kuta Beach.

Yus, as he is known, was in the Sari nightclub with some friends on the night of the car bomb attack. He does not remember anything after the blast. His friends found him hours later, wandering, dazed in the street. He was burned over 40 percent of his body. He spent months in hospitals and underwent skin graft surgery in Australia.

Yus still bears the scars from his ordeal. He has to wear a pressure bandage on his arm to prevent infection.

"Now I'm still in the process of healing," said Yus. "So sometimes I just go to the doctor when there is some problem with the skin. And I used to work at the beach, so I don't work now, because of the sun. The sun bothers me. It makes the skin itch when it's too strong."

Because of his sensitivity to the sun, Yus can only surf now when the skies are overcast. Psychologists say his loss of memory about the blast is common after such a trauma. He calls it a blessing but worries about what will happen if he ever does remember.

One of the heroes of the Bali bombings is Haji Bambang Priyanto. A traffic police officer, Haji Bambang lives not far from where the Sari Club stood. When he heard the blast that night, he rushed to the scene.

Haji Bambang says he was horrified when he saw the devastation and the people crying on the street, their bodies aflame. Many people, including some policemen, were paralyzed by shock. Responding to people's cries for help, he flagged down passing cars and even motorcycles and sent the wounded off to hospitals. He has received many honors and was featured in a Time magazine article.

A devout Muslim, Haji Bambang notes that 17 Muslim extremists have been convicted in Indonesian courts for the Bali attack.

He says he can't believe someone could wreak such destruction on behalf of religion, and the religion they are using is Islam, his faith. Haji Bambang says he understands people are angry over the thousands of innocent lives that have been lost in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But he says revenge is not the answer because violence only begets violence.

Another person whose life was changed by the Bali bombings is Elisa de Jesus, a registered nurse from the United States. Ms. de Jesus had been in Bali four days, researching a medical paper, when the attacks occurred. A specialist in psychiatric nursing, she went to the hospital as a volunteer to help out. For the next two months she counseled hundreds of people suffering from trauma and stress. She helped develop support programs for the survivors of the blast and for families of the victims: counseling sessions, group therapy and programs for children.

She also helped develop programs to reach Indonesians in remote rural areas using interactive radio and television programs and traditional theater.

"Our most successful thing is a Bondras traditional drama, which is like a comedy-drama," said Ms. de Jesus. " And we have a troop of actors who've gone through training with us and they present material to the local people about what effects they might be experiencing from the bombing and explaining to people that these are normal reactions to an extraordinary circumstance. But that if it doesn't get overcome within a month, that maybe they need some extra help."

Ms. De Jesus has settled in Bali. She now heads the local branch of the International Medical Corps that is providing much of the psychological counseling and support for the Bali bombing victims.