By Peter FitzSimons
SYDNEY, October 15. MANY of those who were hurt or killed in the Bali terrorist bombing were sportspeople. Bali has been a leading overseas destination for Australian and New Zealand end of season sporting team holidays for decades. That their spirit and sense of fun led them to be placed in mortal danger is outrageous.
We, in the swimming community, mourn with our Australian friends and fellow athletes, our brothers and sisters in the sporting world.
Australian sports journalist and former Australian Rugby Union representative Peter FitzSimons wrote these fitting words in the Sydney Morning Herald today.
"On September 11 last year, when New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was asked how many people had likely been killed in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre, he replied: 'More than we can bear.'
"So, too, with the nightclub in Bali. While it may be weeks before we finally know how many of our brothers, sisters, cousins, children and friends have been killed, we already know that it will be a lot more than we can bear. In the coming days and weeks we will see the coffins returning on RAAF planes, met by weeping and incomprehending families, and thence to the funerals.
Many of those who died were sportspeople, in Bali for their traditional end-of-season trips. As of yesterday there were three members of Forbes Rugby Club missing, six from the Coogee Bay Dolphins rugby league team, two from the Sturt Australian football club in Adelaide and up to seven players from the Kingsley Australian football club in Perth, to name just a few. All were young people in the absolute prime of their lives and seemingly having the time of their lives.
"I imagine those who deliver their eulogies over these next terrible days will struggle to find the words to make sense of what has happened. For there is, of course, no sense to it. In fact, in the Australian experience, their deaths have given new meaning to the term 'senseless tragedy.'
"There may be some temptation to try to build them into heroes and say 'they gave their lives for freedom,' but that has always been the American way more than our own.
"What they might say, though, is this. As passionate Australian sportspeople, they were individuals who led, in their own fashion, full and colourful lives which embraced an ethos of camaraderie, a love of club and belief in team values. The fact that they headed to Bali and were in those nightclubs is also testimony that they had a great sense of fun.
"It is outrageously unfair and wrong that their embrace of such values had placed them in the position where they were exposed to the unspeakably evil designs of those whose approach to life was at the exact opposite end of the spectrum. But it has happened. As well as cherishing the memories of those who are gone, it is for those of us who have survived – simply because we did not have the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – to try to give the barest beginning of meaning to their death.
"That is, to at least try to plant a seed from which something positive will grow. Each of us will try to do that in our own way, but a beginning to that beginning will be to continue to embrace the value structure of the fallen and not give in to the temptation to take even one step towards taking on the value system of their murderers.
"And what the eulogists may also say is this, for a sure and certain fact: the families and friends of those who are buried in these coming days have the deepest condolences from the rest of the entire sports community across the land.
"We shed tears for all of those who have died and been cruelly maimed – from whatever country and whether or not they were sportspeople – but can be forgiven for shedding just one more for you, our sporting brothers and sisters."