Esmerelda Weatherwax has expressed enjoyment of my two 'great Australians' stories, and has asked for more such.
Well: just over a week ago, it was the eighth anniversary of the jihad terror bombing in Bali on 12 October 2002, which mass-murdered 202 people, including 88 Australians, and wounded 240, many of them very seriously.
That death toll would certainly have been some 30 or 40 persons higher, were it not for the actions of the six 'great Australians' I am honouring today. Six absurdly young Aussie blokes named David Roberts, David McKay, Luke Gordon, Andrew Miller, Robert Meredith and Brett Russell. Six surfies from the Garie Boardriders' Club in the Royal National Park, south of Sydney. David was 24, a lab research assistant at Wollongong University; David McKay, 20, an electrician; Luke Gordon, 19, a carpenter; Andrew Miller, 20, a bricklayer; Robert Meredith, 24, an IT consultant, and Brett Russell, 18, a carpenter.
Their story is told in two articles that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald in October 2002. There is a very nice group photo of the boys in the story at the second link below. Lovely lads, as our British friends would put it.
'The Last Dance', Philip Cornford and Herald reporters, October 19 2002
'Surfers saved lives with a human chain gang' - Sarah Crichton, October 16 2002
In 'The Last Dance' we read:
"The six young surfies from Engadine were into their second beers in the Sari when the first blast jolted them. About four seconds later the second explosion blew the bottles of beer from their hands and threw the group backwards two metres. Their ears were ringing...There was an unbelievable silence. "It was probably only a split second, but it was total silence", said David Roberts.
'Then came the hysteria.
"The flames, the roof totally collapsed, people were definitely going to die...it was just a mad scramble to try to get out. We were trying to yell and find each other. We heard each other's voices and then stuck together really tight....". At first it was pitch black. Then they saw an ominous orange glow from the fire, silhouetting desperate people as they sought to escape. Luke Gordon said: "We realised that if we didn't get out now that it was over. That fire, you could just see it getting bigger and bigger." David McKay said: "I thought we were trapped, that there was no way out."
'Holding onto each other, they made it to the back corner of the Sari Club where there was a three-metre-high wall with a poster of the cartoon character Scooby-Doo drinking jungle juice.
'Roberts scrambled onto the wall and hauled up Gordon and Brett Russell. McKay, Miller and Robert Meredith stayed on the ground, boosting people up to their mates.
'Roberts perched, one arm holding on, the other thrusting each grateful person over an alleyway with a two-metre drop.
'Gordon and Russell, clinging to a rooftop, dragged them to safety.
'Roberts said, "We must have done that for 30 or 40 people until the heat just got so intense we couldn't stand there anymore or else we would have died. We were just trying to get some order, there was so much panic everywhere, it was crazy. You just did what you had to do without thinking of the consequences for yourself. There were lots of women, for some reason. You could just see the helplessness in their eyes when they saw that wall...we did what we could."
In the 'surfers saved lives' report focusing on this episode, the reporter Sarah Crichton puts it this way - "Amid the mounting hysteria, walls crumbling around them, and intense heat from the fire, three took turns to boost person after person up the wall where Mr Roberts perched, one arm holding on, the other thrusting each grateful person back across a 1 metre alleyway to the arm of his mate Luke Gordon, latched on [to] an adjacent rooftop. For what seemed a lifetime, but was probably on 90 seconds, the human chain gang [I think it should simply be 'human chain' - CM] - worked."
'Russell said: "It's the faces of the people you made eye contact with I'll never forget. For the ones you just passed on, it's okay, but the ones you looked in their eyes, I can't get them out of my head, the blood down the faces, their fear."
'McKay said: "It was just like in a nightmare, it was like their muscles weren't working and they couldn't speak or move." Roberts said: "They'd made it there but there was no way out - they were just faces of total helplessness, complete desperation...Funny things are coming back...there were foreigners trying to say 'thank you' in English". Gordon said: "There was one large woman, about 45, in a cossie and sarong, reaching out to me like a little kid with a look - 'just help me, help me'. Many of the girls seemed too shocked to function."
(And then came the worst moment - when they knew they had a choice between staying, and simply getting themselves killed without being able to save anybody else, or leaving and living...but leaving people behind to die - CM).
'Roberts said: "The fire was coming and coming and you knew that people were going to die, there was about 10 feet of breathable air down there. We had to leave or we'd be dead. I knew there wasn't much time. The heat felt like we were melting, you had to hold your hands up to try to shield yourself. I said, "Come on, we have to go'. Luke ran back, I had to tell him, 'No, you're coming with me. "When we left, there would have been still another 30-odd people at the base of that wall, screaming, but there was nothing more we could do."...
'Meredith said: "I thought we'd get out okay, even when the roof collapsed. Maybe it was the teamwork, the mateship we'd got from being on that boat [in the surf club - CM] but somehow we just worked together despite the chaos. It must have been adrenaline...".
They may be haunted by the memory of those they could not save, but I remember and honour them because of those that they did save. Because of these six young Australians who lived up to the West's ancient principles of chivalry, courage under fire, and intelligent cooperation, the jihadists' 'kill tally' ended up a good deal lower than it otherwise would have been. - CM.
At the end of Sarah Crichton's report on these six young heroes, she records this statement:
"We did what we could", Mr Robert said quietly.'
They did what they could. They rescued maybe 30, 40 people alive from out of the jaws of the monster that is jihad. No matter what else they do with the rest of their lives, those 90 well-used seconds at the back of the Sari Club have placed them among our bravest and best.
I should add that I do not, in focusing on these six brave gentlemen, in any way intend to diminish the work of all the others, Australian and from other countries, who in the aftermath of the Bali bombing helped save the lives of their injured fellow non-Muslims - CM