S'porean survivor of Bangkok blast: 'S'pore needs to be vigilant'
Paris terror attacks remind S'porean of his harrowing experience in Bangkok when Erawan Shrine was bombed
When he read about the recent Paris attacks, he experienced flashbacks of the gruesome scene where he almost lost his life.
John was one of the seven Singaporeans injured in the terrorist attack in Bangkok on Aug 17.
He did not want us to use his name nor his photos - he says he has trouble enough with the memories and needs no more reminders.
But he gave us an insight into how terrorism is not a problem only in other countries but how it has hit home.
"When I see pictures of flames and victims, the momentous event comes back," says John, who is in his mid-50s.
He was in Thailand for a holiday with his wife and two sisters when two bombs exploded inside Erawan Shrine at the Rachaprasong intersection in Bangkok.
The attack killed 20 people and injured 125 others, including John and his family members.
A Singaporean woman died in the blast.
Recalling the traumatic event, John says: "We were inside the shrine. Those who died were about 2m away. I was 2m to 2.5m away from the bomb."
When the first blast went off, he quickly got down, thanks to the military training he had, he says.
"We saw a huge fire flash. It rose to maybe 20m high. That was the first blast, the motorcycle bomb," he adds.
It was quickly followed by the second blast, a bomb placed on a chair near the shrine entrance, he says.
"I was praying and holding joss sticks. I saw the fire, and I turned to my left and told my sister to get down. As I was going down, I felt something hit me," he says, declining to elaborate.
John was the most severely injured among his family.
At that moment, he did not feel any pain in his body. He felt the pain in his leg only 20 minutes later when he could not stand.
Two pellets broke his shin and a 5mm pellet pierced and tore through his colon.
John underwent two operations to insert screws to rejoin the broken bones and to remove the pellet and mend his colon.
He still has a ball bearing lodged in his thigh muscles, near a tendon and nerves, which is too risky to remove.
"It is something I have to live with," he says.
One of his older sisters needed six stitches on her left thigh, while another needed two operations to remove shrapnel in her leg and fragments on the left side of her forehead.
His wife suffered light injuries.
John is undergoing weekly physiotherapy sessions and walks with a limp.
While he is recovering physically, the emotional and mental scars are harder to heal.
News of terrorist attacks keeps bringing back the painful memories. But there is no way he can avoid reading about the incidents, he admits.
"You have to face it. How to run away when it is in front of you? You have to understand it," he says.
"Being at home every day and disabled, your mind runs wild.
"I push myself, I swallow the pain. I want to move around, I want to travel again."
He adds that before he starts travelling again, he wants to make sure he can run - should anything happen.
Since the Bangkok incident, John feels uncomfortable in crowded places. When he goes to the cinema, he finds himself scanning the hall for exits.
He urges people not to take anything for granted.
"Singapore needs to be vigilant. People who have not gone through it think there is nothing to worry about. For those who have experienced it, it is etched in their mind."
John is grateful to be alive and that his family have not suffered more.
"Life - it can be given to you, it can also be taken away from you."
When I see pictures of flames and victims, the momentous event comes back.