Story transcripts

Bali - 10th Anniversary Special

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Reporter: Peter Overton
Producer: Jo Townsend

We thought it could never happen to us, that Australia was immune to the horror of terrorism. But then, 10 years ago, a series of bombs ripped through Bali's nightclub district and we lost our innocence.

202 people died that night, including 88 Aussies.

Over the past decade, we've followed the survivors as they've rebuilt their lives. Some have done it publicly, defiantly thumbing their noses at the terrorists. Others like Carren Smith have struggled out of view - until now.

On Sunday night, we revisit some of our inspirational survivors and, for the first time, Carren shares her incredible story.

TIMELINE: To mark the anniversary, 60 Minutes has compiled a timeline of events that have taken place since the Bali bombings in October 2002.

PHOTOS: See more from behind the scenes in Bali here.

EXTENDED INTERVIEW: Carren Smith describes just how she survived the Bali bombings. View the interview here.

Story contacts:

Survivor Carren Smith has written a book about her experience. Soul Survivor is available for purchase here, or for download here. To learn more about Carren, go to her website: www.carrensmith.com or Facebook.

Survivor Nicole McLean has written a book about her experience. Stronger Now is available in bookstores October 1.

The Peter Hughes Burn Foundation is a not-for-profit registered charity that exists to meet the needs of burn survivors and their families in times of trauma. To make a donation to the Foundation, visit www.peterhughesburnfoundation.org.au, phone 1300 136 285 or visit Facebook.

Full transcript:

CARREN: I put a certain distance between myself and what happened here, just so that I could go on. But you can’t hide from that when you are standing here, you know. You can’t have - that distance isn’t there anymore. Now it is very real for me.

STORY – PETER OVERTON: An Australian Bali survivor.

CARREN: I’ve come back, and now I am really going to, um, have something extraordinary as a part of my life, that I actually acknowledge.

PETER OVERTON: Carren Smith is back in Bali for the first time, where the Sari Club once stood.

CARREN: No one could run on this side because this was all on fire, but on this side there were, there were people running and they were screaming and then they - and then they were screaming, saying, run – run for your life. I fell into ditches, and ran through more flames, and ran through broken down buildings, because -

PETER OVERTON: Carren came so close to losing her life right here. And she’s waited ten years to return, to open up about what happened that night.

CARREN: Bali represents a place where my life as I knew it was lost, and the people that I was most close to were taken from me. And that wasn’t something that I felt that I could ever put myself back in that kind of environment again.

PETER OVERTON: Carren was taken to Bali by her two closest friends. It was supposed to be a “cheer-up trip” after her partner had just died.

CARREN: And we were in the Sari Club for about three or four hours, and then that was it, you know. That was it.

PETER OVERTON: It was October 12, 2002 - the night two devastating bombs tore downtown Kuta apart, killing 88 Australians– including both of Carren’s best friends, Jodi Wallace and Charmaine Whitton.

CARREN: I just had this thought that I just had to get out, and I didn’t know that I’d been hurt - but I just wanted to try and find Jodi and Charmaine in all of that.

PETER OVERTON: Oh, dear. I remember exactly where I was when I heard about the Bali bombings. Ten years ago – it seems like only yesterday. Many survivors have chosen to keep their Bali stories very close. Others though have been thrust into the spotlight, their scarred bodies and minds a real touchstone of that abhorrent night, right here. But all these years on, the beautiful thing is there’s new hope - and there’s new life – for the people we’ve come to know so well. As you’ll see tonight, Nicole McLean, Peter Hughes and Dale Atkin have not just survived, they’ve prospered - a decade after we first met them.

NICOLE: Go, go, go, go, go.

PETER OVERTON: This must be wonderful for you, to be kicking the footy with the two most important men in your life?

NICOLE: Oh love it, love it. I remember when Kallen was first born and Luke said, I just can’t wait to kick the footy with him and I said – don’t wish his life away ‘cos it goes so fast.

PETER OVERTON: Nicole McLean is one Bali survivor that chances are you haven’t forgotten. She lost her arm that night, and suffered other horrific injuries – but we all remember Nicole’s refusal to look at anything but the bright side.

NICOLE: So many people lost their lives that night and I was spared. So it means that – that, that, that’s the reason for living and I’ll – I will solider on, and I’ll move on for those people that did not make it home.

PETER OVERTON: Ten years on, Nicole has become a mum to four-year-old Kallen – and baby number two is almost due. Motherhood really suits you Nicole.

NICOLE: I knew I could love a child, but I just thought it was gonna be hard. And it is hard, even if you’ve got two arms. But when he came into the world as soon as I lifted him up, a massive weight had lifted off my shoulders and I thought, I can do this. And the lioness came out in me, and yeah – I’d move mountains for him.

PETER OVERTON: But Nicole’s uncanny ability to find the best in any situation is constantly challenged by the rigours and routines of motherhood.

NICOLE: I’d gone through the last – you know, so many years of dealing with having one arm - and that was fine, but then when I had to care for somebody else, this little baby, it was – it really brought back the bombers to me, you know, that I was pissed off at what they’d done to me. And that I couldn’t hold my son up in the air and, and you know, laugh and blow raspberries on his tummy and those sort of things that, that mothers and fathers can do – I couldn’t do that and that really upset me more than what I ever thought it would have.

PETER OVERTON: Nicole has written a book about her life since Bali – it’s been key to her recovery.

NICOLE: Bali taught me that the love you share with your family and friends is the single most important thing in life. They say that love makes the world go round, and it’s true.

PETER OVERTON: And, while we were filming with Nicole, a little early surprise arrived - Baby Isla.

NICOLE: I was broken, and love put me back together again. And dusted me off and set me on my way. Without love – I don’t know where I’d be.

REPORTER: How are you doing?

PETER: Yeah, good. Really good. Being well looked after here.

PETER OVERTON: Everyone knows the man in Bali who once told the world he was okay - but whose face told a very different story.

PETER: There are a lot worse more people than me.

PETER OVERTON: Peter Hughes’ swollen head – and his struggle for survival in the months and years afterwards - is seared into all of our memories.

PETER: I’ve made the ten year anniversary and I’m - I can’t believe it. It’s a personal achievement for me to last ten years. Um, it was a massive battle to get here. So it would be like my grand final I guess.

PETER OVERTON: On the outside, Peter’s the best we’ve ever seen him – and to help him heal on the inside, he’s set up the Peter Hughes Burn Foundation. Tonight, he’s guest of honour at his own event. For Peter’s son Leigh, tonight is also a major milestone - he was just 21 when we first met him, and desperately worried for his dad’s life.

LEIGH: At this stage his burns are, I think, 54%, so - but he's hanging in there, I'm hanging in there, there's still a chance.

PETER OVERTON: Today Leigh is a 31-year-old business owner and a proud director of the Foundation.

LEIGH: I have mixed emotions and mixed feelings about the whole last ten years when it comes to how I’ve been – because that changed my life at 21-years-old, very quickly, when we met in Adelaide. Since then I guess I’ve probably matured a lot earlier than what I thought that I would over time.

PETER OVERTON: Is Leigh still your wingman?

PETER: He’s the reason I get up every day.

PETER OVERTON: Leigh’s walked the full ten years with you, hasn’t he?

PETER: Yeah, he has. And um, you know what, you feel guilty. You never want to do this to your kids, and I think um, Leigh, Leigh is just, um, the ultimate human being for a son.

DALE: More? I want more, you say. It’s almost ten years to the day since Bali happened. Now I’m a father for the second time.

PETER OVERTON: Dale Atkin is barely recognisable from the haunted survivor we met all those years ago.

DALE: I was actually on the verge of committing suicide. I just felt so guilty. There was days I didn’t want to get out of bed. There was days I just drank myself stupid, just to try and forget about that memory.

PETER OVERTON: This was Dale in 2007.

DALE: So it’s the pain, the pain today. I struggle daily.

PETER OVERTON: Now, with two gorgeous kids, a fiancé, and a job as a real estate agent, Dale has completely turned his life around.

DALE: I am so happy and this is a job I love so much.

PETER OVERTON: Shall we do the honours?

DALE: You certainly can help!

PETER OVERTON: Is this a nice place to be?

DALE: It’s a fantastic place to be. Going through Bali has made me a better person, has made me a better father, has made me a better husband-to-be, a better friend, a better family member to all my extended family. It’s been one hell of a road.

PETER OVERTON: Carren Smith has also come a long way down the road from Bali. She’s triumphed over the trauma. But there are still some regrets - she never had the chance to thank the man who saved her life that terrible night, off-duty AFP Officer Frank Morgan.

CARREN: Gosh, he was awesome. He was amazing. He - as I lay down on the table he said you’re safe now. He said no one’s gonna hurt you, he said I’m gonna take care of you, you’re totally safe. He said, you have nothing more to worry about and the fight’s over. Honestly Peter, there was nothing that I could have needed to hear more than that at that time. He was amazing. He was amazing, a knight in shining armour.

PETER OVERTON: And what would you say to Frank, if you met him?

CARREN: I think I’d just give him the hugest hug that ever there was.

PETER OVERTON: Ten years on, we decided it had been long enough. Meet Frank?

CARREN: Oh shit no! Oh, sorry I swore. Oh my god, oh you’ve got to be joking. Oh my god. Oh my goodness, look at you! Frank held my hand as the doctor put 38 staples straight into my skull, and there was no anaesthetic, there was none of that. And you know, I never felt a thing. I heard the crunches, but I never felt anything. And Frank’s hand just got tighter. He said, okay, one more, held me tighter. He goes ok, just look, there’s just one more. And 38 times later he said, ok, now that was the last one! He was a man that just made me feel like I could keep going. He’s one of god’s gifts to humanity. He was just sent to all of us, to be our rescuers, you know.

PETER OVERTON: Four Australian survivors - four very different stories - all in a special club they had no say in joining.

CARREN: I think the last ten years has been challenging, life-altering, extraordinary and revealing.

DALE: An absolute rollercoaster - the highs, the lows, the lows, the lows, the highs, the anger, ah the happiness of my children being born – ah, the frustration. So, huge rollercoaster.

PETER: It hasn’t been an easy ride the last ten years, but I don’t really think about that. I’m more the positive, the negative doesn’t really play a part in my life. I tend to resolve things very quickly, and I think that’s the best thing that’s come out of it.

DALE: It's never gonna go away, it's always gonna be there - but I can still make good out of life, and so much has happened. I’ve been able to help people and I do believe things happen for a reason.

CARREN: I just can’t comprehend that Jodi’s and Charmaine’s name would even be there. It's only because there’s been so much time passed that I can say this, but that whole experience has been an incredible gift to me and in terms of for me, for others, because my whole life now is about contributing and making a difference.

PETER OVERTON: Are you glad you’ve come back to Bali?

CARREN: I am. I am, because I have found another level of depth to myself, so I am, so I’m grateful. Thank you.

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