Remembering the McKeons: Bali bombing victims

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THREE nights ago, two men sat in a Kuta bar and talked about the last minutes of their sister’s life before the Bali bombings 10 years ago.

Ben Sutherland, of Scone, and his brother Ron May, of Sydney, were in a nightclub near the Sari Club where their sister Lyn McKeon, 45, and her daughter Marissa, 14, of Kincumber on the Central Coast died on October 12, 2002.

‘‘We were just sitting there listening to the music and talking about how nice it was,’’  Mr May said yesterday  on the phone from his Kuta hotel.

‘‘And that’s how it must have happened. They would have been sitting there listening to the music and having a nice time on holiday, and then they were gone.’’

Mrs McKeon’s husband Ross, 47, survived the blast but suffered serious burns to his hands and feet. Their other daughter Kristie, 13, also survived.

The McKeons were two of 88 Australians, and 202 people in total, to die in the first Bali bombings in 2002.

Ross and Kristie McKeon, Mr May, Mr Sutherland and wife Linda and their sons Jesse and Colby, and Mrs McKeon’s sisters Terrie Smith and her husband Warren, are at Bali Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park today for a memorial service to mark the 10th anniversary of the bombing.

It was a very emotional time, Mr May said.

Even though he attended a memorial service at the cultural park on the first anniversary in 2003, the 10th anniversary was difficult because time had elapsed and life had gone on for survivors.

‘‘You only have to look at the children to realise time stopped for some, but the rest of us have gone zon,’’ Mr May said.

Kristie McKeon, 23, is a model who travels the world. Mr and Mrs Sutherland’s son Colby was 11 yesterday, and on the eve of the memorial service the extended family celebrated a bitter sweet birthday for him.

In a phone call from Kuta on Wednesday night, Mrs Sutherland remembered 10 years ago, receiving a phone call as she cleared up after Colby’s first birthday party, and suddenly being plunged into the nightmare of an international terrorist attack.

‘‘It was surreal when it first happened because you can’t believe it,’’ Mrs Sutherland said.

Reality hit with a chance sighting of an obviously injured Ross McKeon being wheeled on an ambulance stretcher during television coverage of the bombing.

This week is the first time the Sutherlands have been to Bali.

‘‘Ben couldn’t come before this. It was just too traumatic for him,’’ Mrs Sutherland said. 

Mr May’s wife Karyne, who had to stay in Australia but will attend a memorial service at Coogee today, said she was glad her husband had gone back to Bali, after vowing he would not return after 2003.

‘‘I think he might have felt like a lot of people,’’ Mrs May said. ‘‘How can you enjoy yourself on a holiday in Bali knowing people have died?’’

‘‘I’m glad he’s gone back, because it might break that barrier.’’

Mr May said the extended family, including Ross and Kristie McKeon, had dinner on Wednesday night. They enjoyed being together, and Mr McKeon was with his partner Kerry, but ‘‘I don’t know what Ross thinks every time he looks at the memorial near where it happened’’.

‘‘He doesn’t let too much out. Time goes on, and it might deaden the pain a little bit, but you change when something like this happens. There was the person you were before, and the person you become,’’ Mr May said.

There was considerable coverage in Bali of security concerns leading up to the memorial service, Mr May said.

‘‘There’s always a worry, but we’re here and hopefully nothing’s going to happen, but it’s always at the back of your mind, ‘‘ he said.

‘‘One part of you knows these kind of things happen when people least expect it, so you wouldn’t expect anything at a memorial service with a lot of security, but you don’t know how these people [terrorists] think.’’

Appreciating the life they had was the family’s tribute to Lyn and Marissa.

‘‘We’re all here, we’re all together to remember them, and that’s the main thing’’ Mr May said. 

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