Conflict & Justice

Witness tells her story from the Indonesia terror attack

RTX22BLNcropped.jpg

Police gather near the scene of gun and bomb attacks on western targets in Jakarta. The massive security response killed the assailants before they could do much damage. 

Credit:

Beawiharta/Reuters

Several places in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, were attacked Thursday morning. But a massive security response quickly killed the five assailants. One policeman died in the altercation, as did a civilian, a Canadian citizen.

Player utilities

This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

ISIS has claimed responsibility.

Sandra Siagian was close to the attacks. She's an Australian who works for the UN in Jakarta.

"I was in the office. I'm on the 7th floor. Just before 11 a.m. my colleagues and I heard what sounded like a loud bang. My colleague actually thought it was thunder, but I said no, this doesn’t sound like thunder.”

“So we walked over to the window, and we looked outside and we could see smoke coming up from what looked like the parking lot from a building maybe two doors down. Then when we looked to the left, out to the main road, we could see more smoke coming up, and later on we heard that was a bomb blast that had gone off near the Starbucks across the road from our office.”

“After that, everyone was in a bit of a panic in the office,” said Siagian. She says the instinct was to bolt. “Initially everyone wanted to do that, and everyone’s like: grab your wallet, grab your phone, let’s go.”

But the UN’s security team quickly told everyone to stay; move away from the windows and sit together in the center of the room, as the building went into lockdown. The security people said it was safer to stay and avoid the lobby and entrances.

“We were sitting down, and then we heard after that another bomb go off. And we just kept hearing them until we counted about seven blasts altogether. Well, we thought it sounded like explosions; I’m not sure if they were all explosions. It could have been gunfire as well.”

Siagian admits she was panicking, “but everyone was trying to calm everyone [else] down, just comforting each other. All we could do was just sit and wait.”

Speaking in the evening after the attack, Siagian said “I’m fine now. Earlier this morning I was pretty shaken up, and I was feeling really scared. But my colleagues helped comfort me, and I think just knowing that there was other people in the office together, it was fine.”

Siagian says her thoughts turned to her family during the attack. “I’m living in Jakarta, and most of all my family is back in Sydney, Australia, and so my first reaction was ‘do I call them? Do I call my friends? How do I tell everyone?’ I’m not even sure what’s going on, because at that point I wasn’t even sure like do I waste my battery on my phone, or do I get on my email, or even just check what’s going on, on news sites online.”

The worst part was not knowing what might happen next. “Is something else going to happen, or what? So, yeah, it definitely was a moment where I thought, is this the time where I make the phone calls home.”

Siagian joked that it was good to have an easy commute home, as the streets were quiet. “I feel safe now that I’m at home.”