ABOVE: Hanabeth Luke at the beach in Evans Head. Photo: Susanna Freymark
STORY by Susanna Freymark
Before Hanabeth Luke became known as the Angel of Bali after the bombing of the Sari Club, she had an experience here that prepared her somewhat.
A year before the October 12, 2002 bomb blast, Hanabeth was on a Byron Bay beach with her boyfriend Marc Gajardo.
A man in the water had a heart attack.
“I watched other people resuscitating him,” Hanabeth said.
“They weren’t successful.”
The death of the stranger played on Hanabeth’s mind.
What would have happened if the other people hadn’t been there? she asked herself.
It prompted Hanabeth to train in CPR and complete her Bronze.
That gave her confidence.
“Soon after, I rescued someone who had an epileptic fit in the surf.”
Hanabeth believes the training and confidence helped her cope with the bombing.
When the bomb went off in the Sari Club and 202 people died, 88 were Australian.
It remains the largest killing of Australians overseas in a single event in peacetime.
There were two explosions in Kuta that night targeting tourist hotspots and one in nearby Denpasar outside the US consulate.
At 11.05pm, a suicide bomber inside the Paddy’s Pub nightclub detonated a bomb in his backpack. People fled into the streets after the explosion.
Twenty seconds later, another suicide bomber detonated a much more powerful bomb hidden inside a white van outside the Sari Club, opposite Paddy’s Pub.
Hanabeth, 22, was on the dance floor in the Sari Club with Marc, 30.
There was a loud bang. Then silence.
Hanabeth was thrown up into the roof. She sustained an injury to her tailbone that she wasn’t aware of until years later.
At the time she appeared to have no injuries.
“I had a tiny scratch on me,” she said.
Hanabeth searched for Marc in the chaos and burning rubble.
As she was calling out for him, she helped others. She vaguely remembers the flash of a camera.
The resulting photo of Hanabeth helping a young, injured Australian man called Tom Singer out of the bomb site was printed in every newspaper the next day.
When she phoned her father, he asked her what she was wearing on the night of the bombing.
After she told him, he said: “I think you’re on the front of The Australian.”
She was dubbed the Angel of Bali.
Marc died in the bombing.
“Marc was my first love,” Hanabeth said.
“He was an incredible human being.”
There was a lot of attention on Hanabeth after the bombing.
She was invited to speak with the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and was interviewed many times.
She also had to carry on with life after the traumatic event.
Members of an Islamist group were convicted for the bombings.
“These terrorists will not beat me, I will live life to the full.”
That was what she thought after the bombing.
“Until that point I had held back.”
She became fearless after the bombing.
“I drank a fair bit of tequila and rode big waves.
“I was living for the moment, riding big waves in Western Australia.”
She had PTSD but didn’t know what that was until 10 years later.
To help process all that happened to her, Hanabeth wrote a book – Shock Waves.
“Writing the book, I had to walk back through what happened,” she said.
“It took me 10 years to give myself compassion.”
Just a few months ago – 20 years later – in the middle of a busy Federal election campaign where Hanabeth was running as an independent for the seat of Page, she received a phone call from a TV producer.
They let me know they were doing a series about the Bali bombing, she said.
Hanabeth spent time talking with actor Saskia Archer who will play her in the Stan TV series screening from September 25.
Hanabeth admits it’s surreal having that part of her life retold. She’s not sure how she will feel watching the four episodes of Bali 2002.
Hanabeth will give a TEDx talk in Byron Bay on October 23 about overcoming her fears.
Dr Hanabeth Luke is a lecturer at Southern Cross University where she coordinates the regenerative agriculture course.
She is a scientist, a mother, a surfer, a politician, a singer, a writer and a bombing survivor.
Living in Evans Head with her husband and two children, life has been busy and she craves some “introspection time”.
She knows that when bad things happen she overcomes her fears and helps others. Not only after the bombing – during the floods this year she helped rescue people from rooftops.
Her life has been partly defined by the Bali bombing and what has happened since.
Sitting with her at the Sandbar Restaurant at Evans Head Surf Club, she squeals with delight as she sights a whale flipping its fin on the horizon.
Hanabeth is a strong, practical woman with a hint of shyness. A woman who chose bravery when it was most needed.
For Hanabeth, hope, optimism and her fight to make a difference in the world defines her survival way beyond the tragic terrorist attack 20 years ago.
Below is a trailer for Bali 2002.