I graduated from my Australian Customs Traineeship on the 11th of October 2002. It was a Friday and we were due to have our graduation ceremony at a flash reception centre later that day. I spent the morning at a tattoo parlour having half my right shoulder covered in a phoenix design. I had gotten a tattoo the week I started with my traineeship so I had promised myself another one when I graduated. It was simple black ink design of the bird rising up, it's head tilted towards the sky as it rose from the ashes. I didn't understand how ironic this image would become until a little more than 24 hours later.
Saturday the 12th of October 2002, I had spent a good part of the evening ironing my uniform for my first shift at the airport the next morning. I was due to start at, ahem, 3am. I was nervous and excited and I promised myself I would try to at least get an hour or two of sleep before I left for work. I was at my computer wasting time when the first news reports came on to the tele which was turned on in the loungeroom. The newsreader sounded stressed but it wasn't enough to pique my interest. I wasn't really listening until I heard something along the lines of "the injured are being evacuated to Darwin by the RAAF". I pushed my chair back so I could see the television. Images of fire, people running, people injured, people screaming graced the screen. A ribbon across the bottom of the screen screamed "TERRORIST ATTACK IN BALI". I sat, in shock staring at the screen. it was Saturday the 12th of October 2002 and I was due to start my first shift as a Customs Officer at Darwin Airport in just a few hours time.
After the initial shock I jumped up and raced into my bedroom to throw on my uniform. Surely they needed me, I thought, I start in a few hours and in a few hours is when the first of the injured pax would be arriving, they would need all hands on deck to help. I was 19 years old and all of a sudden felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. I remember telling myself, just wait, if they need you they'll call you. Yeah right. I jumped into my car and headed to the airport, not knowing what I would be confronted with.
I haven't finished this blog post yet...
The family members awaiting any news, clinging to the cyclone fencing trying to see the injured as they were stretchered off the RAAF planes.
The airport fire truck hosing out the back of the RAAF places - blood and skin from those who had travelled back.
The injured who were so terribly injured they didn't make the flight home - I believe there were a couple of people who passed away on the first flight out of Denpasar.
The look of terror on the faces of those passengers who were evacuated out of Bali after the bombings.