As the reactions to the death of Osama Bin Laden rebound around the world, spare a moment for those who lives have been irreparably changed by his beliefs and by the actions of his followers.
Peter Hughes was one of them He was one of hundreds holidaying in Bali on the evening of 12 October 2002. He had arrived in Denpasar late that afternoon and had been out for dinner. Just after 11pm he arrived at Paddy’s Irish Pub at Kuta Beach with a group of friends and was waiting for his first shout when he found himself propelled through the air by a massive explosion.
After coming to his senses, Peter helped other victims to find the exit. They staggered out of the firestorm into the street only to be swept almost back inside Paddy’s Pub by a second explosion from the nearby Sari Club.
Peter had instinctively looked left as he exited the bar. Had he looked right he would almost certainly have been killed by the lethal shower of shrapnel from the second blast.
In the shocking first hours of the ensuing media coverage of the tragedy, Peter Hughes’ blistered and grossly swollen face was the image that symbolized the spirit of the Australian victims. Millions of Australians saw him tell rescuers that he was OK and to concentrate on those worse off. We instinctively knew he was gravely injured.
In fact, he was at death’s door. He had burns to almost 60% of his body: full-thickness burns to his arms, legs, stomach and back and serious shrapnel wounds to his stomach and legs. Doctors gave him a 5% chance of survival. They were forced to place him in an induced coma for a fortnight. During that eternity for his family and friends, Peter died three times and was revived each time by his heroic medical team.
He fought and survived this nightmare but ahead lay a world of pain: years of grafts and rehab and long nights of lonely doubts and depression.
But Peter Hughes never gave in. He outlasted the pain and the depression and the doubts and now he has outlasted Osama Bin Laden. More power to him and his spirit.