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EXCLUSIVE: Natalie Juniardi recalls losing her husband John in the Bali bombings

"Life Changed forever."
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Natalie Juniardi, kissed her husband John outside their favourite Kuta restaurant and said, “Bye”.

“Be home soon,” he promised, flashing his dazzling smile.

The evening of October 12, 2002 was the last time they would ever see each other.

Tragically, John, 33, an Indonesian surfboard manufacturer and loving dad to their toddler Kiola, would be one of the 202 people killed in the Bali bombings.

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With the 20th year anniversary of that terrible event upon us, Natalie, now 48, still vividly recalls the night she became a widow.

“We’d just had a seafood meal together. Pregnant with our second child, I was tired, so decided to head home, while John set off to the Sari Club,” she tells New Idea magazine.

Born in Nowra, southern NSW, Natalie had met John at Kuta Beach in 1993 when she was 19, living in Jakarta. She’d later moved to Bali to join him, and they married in 1996, on her 22d birthday. Later John, a keen surfer, established a surfboard shop in Kuta, his pride and joy.

Over dinner that fateful night of October 12, 2002, he’d been enthusing about his new factory, making surfboards for the shop.

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“When I said goodbye, I remember kissing him on the lips, which I didn’t always do.”

“When I said goodbye, I remember kissing him on the lips, which I didn’t always do,” Natalie recalls.

“Back at home, a little after 11pm, I woke to hear a massive explosion. From the window, I could see fire and smoke in the area where our shop was, very close to the Sari Club.”

She tried to telephone John, but his phone was off.

“I decided to head over there on my motorbike,” she says.

Arriving at the shop, she saw John’s motorbike parked outside.

“His phone still wasn’t answering, so I headed for the Sari Club. It was pitch black; people were running in all directions, screaming. It was chaos.”

“As I got closer, I could see flames and rubble everywhere. I just froze – and went back to the shop.

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“As I got closer, I could see flames and rubble everywhere.”

“I still didn’t know there’d been a bomb; it was clear something really terrible had happened,” she explains.

For the next few agonising hours, then days, then weeks, Natalie and her family and friends tried in vain to find John.

“The day after the bomb a friend, who’d been at the club with her mum that night but had ducked out to buy cigarettes when the bombs went off, told me John was standing in front of her at the bar just before the explosion,” says Natalie.

“I knew John could not have survived. Even so, we needed to find his body.”

It was six long weeks before she finally learned John’s remains had been identified through DNA testing.

“I was told this while lying in hospital with pregnancy complications, no doubt brought on by the stress and anxiety,” she explains.

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“I knew John could not have survived. Even so, we needed to find his body.”

Despite her devastation “it almost came as a relief; not knowing is unbearable.”

Life as she knew it was changed forever. 

Grief stricken; Natalie returned to Australia to give birth to son Jay – ten weeks premature – but later returned to Bali.

“I had to be strong for my two little boys,” she reflects. “And for years I kept John’s surf shop going. It was his pride and joy.”

In time, Natalie met and married another man, with whom she had her third, son Kaden, 13, though that relationship is now over.

“Every year, to honour John, we go to Kuta Beach and have a ceremony in his honour,” she says.

“Friends come down to honour John and everyone who we’ve lost.”

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“Friends come down to honour John and everyone who we’ve lost.”

They throw petals in the water, make some offerings, and celebrate the man known for his smile and his love of life and his family.

“For many years, I was extremely angry towards the people who had robbed me of my husband,” says Natalie, who has found happiness with her partner of six years, Adi. 

While relieved when three Indonesian terrorists behind the bombings were executed by firing squad in 2008, “Gradually, I’ve learned to let go of my anger,” reflects Natalie who says her strength and happiness comes from her 3 boys and Adi. “It doesn’t help me or my kids to keep dwelling on this. After we commemorate the 20th anniversary of what happened, I’m ready to move on to the next chapter.”

“I can always say a prayer to John in my heart. He’ll always be remembered.”

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