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Life after terror

When Carmen Jacques visited the site of the Bali bombings, the emotional impact was achingly raw. It led her to document the trauma of four people touched by terror globally.

ECU PhD candidate Carmen Jacques is researching how terror attacks impact individual lives and communities.

Kev Paltridge wakes up every morning and talks to his son, Corey, telling him about his plans for the day. In the evening, they chat again. But Corey isn't physically with us. He was killed 17 years ago in the Bali bombings, in the single largest loss of Australian life due to an act of terror.

Paltridge's story is one of four being documented by ECU PhD student Carmen Jacques, as part of her research into how the experience of a terror attack impacts individual lives and communities. Another story is that of Perth firefighter Andrew Wallace, who was so moved by the September 11 attacks he flew to New York to help the first responders.

Then there is Gill Hicks, who lost both legs beneath the knees in the 2005 London bombings, and her husband, Karl. And finally, former Network Ten journalist Nick Way, who responded to the Bali bombings as a reporter and has only now begun to tell his own story.

Jacques, who visited the Bali bombings site more than a decade after the attack, says people who experience a terror attack often report a loss of identity.

"Everything that you use to make sense of the world is shattered," she says. "[The attack] is totally outside of anything you've ever experienced before."

Jacques says there is no single point of 'healing' or 'recovery'. Instead, victims undergo a process of building a new identity.

"It's a recreation of a sense of agency, with the terror attack as a part of that new self," she says. "And learning to live with it and run along with it, but not allow it to take control of you."

A common theme Jacques is finding is how people can start to live a happy and hopeful life, after their world has been torn apart by violence and terror. She believes bringing stories of suffering together helps reveal what is common among us.

"Humanity has the capacity to hope and suffer," Jacques says. "It's something I think we do in very similar ways, we just maybe give it a different cloak, whether that be religion, culture, ethnicity etc. It may seem different, but actually when you look at the nuts and bolts of it there are things that are very similar among us.

"Even just looking at the stories here of these very different people involved in very different attacks for very different reasons – they've all had the realisation that their stories have power and they all use their stories to reach out and help others."

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