Wed, 13 Aug 2003

Newlyweds thankful for escape

Zakki Hakim, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

"I have had a glimpse of hell. Well, sort of," said Zaenal Abidin, 29, whose arms were burned in last week's JW Marriott Hotel blast.

He was in the Sailendra Restaurant located off the hotel's lobby when the blast occurred just few meters from where he stood.

"I heard a big bang and suddenly I was surrounded by a fireball," Zaenal told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday at Pertamina Central Hospital in South Jakarta, where he is hospitalized.

He said that at that very moment he thought of God and wished for more time with his wife, Salmah, 21, whom he married on June 24, approximately six weeks before the blast, and to see his child born. Salmah is thought to be two weeks' pregnant.

He feels grateful, as though he has been given a second chance.

"I will be more pious from now on," he said.

Twelve people were killed and 147 others injured in the Marriott blast, the fifth bombing to have rocked the capital this year.

Death can strike at anytime and at any place, and Zaenal had been trying to avoid public places ever since the Bali bombing in October last year.

"Now I'll avoid them even more," he said.

Zaenal, an engineer at PT Dharma Muda Pratama oil company, was treating a group of clients to lunch at the restaurant.

"I always thought that the area around the hotel was quite safe until last week," said the engineer, whose office is located at Menara Rajawali, just a block from the hotel.

After the blast, Zaenal was particularly worried about his wife, because he was afraid that just a little stress could cause a miscarriage.

He said he and his wife had yet to have a honeymoon because they still had to visit a number of relatives in Jakarta.

Zaenal said that according to the doctors, he would have to stay in the hospital for another month to treat the burns on his arms, nape, the crown of his head and his left ear. He was also wounded on his left arm and in the abdomen.

It will take another two months of total rest for him to regain his strength and the use of him arms.

"Next month, after I get out of the hospital, my wife and I will stay at my parents house in Bangil, East Java," he said.

"Perhaps that will be our honeymoon," he said, with his wife looking on.

"Well, looking on the bright side, we don't have to spend our honeymoon in a hotel room. Instead we have a first-class room in this hospital," he said, grimacing in pain at his injuries for a moment.