MALANG, Indonesia — He was a die-hard Arema F.C. fan who loved birds and painstakingly cleaned their seven cages every weekend.
She was a great cook who loved aerobics and chatting with her neighbors.
Muhammad Yulianto and Devi Ratna Sari were an ordinary couple trying to make ends meet in the city of Malang. They lived there with their only child, an 11-year-old boy.
A trip to Kanjuruhan Stadium last Saturday, their son’s first stadium soccer match, changed the family forever. That night, several Arema fans, angry at their team’s loss, clashed with the police, prompting security forces to spray tear gas into the stands. Thousands of people rushed for the exits, choking from the smoke and trampling one another.
Yulianto, known as Anton, and Devi, known as Evi, were among 125 people who died that weekend. Their son, Muhammad Alfiansyah — who they called Alfi — survived.
The Indonesian government is scrambling to investigate the cause of the tragedy and has vowed to punish the perpetrators. Here, in Malang, a laidback town in Indonesia’s East Java Province, the community of more than 880,000 people is broken. Everyone seems to know someone who had died. There is a palpable sense of disbelief at the scale of the tragedy, their anger directed at the police.
In the neighborhood of Bareng where Mr. Yulianto and Ms. Devi lived, many people found it especially hard to come to terms with the sudden loss of their favorite couple. Mr. Yulianto and Ms. Devi’s house, crammed in a narrow alley, had served as a meeting place for the neighborhood. There was always coffee and cake, and friends remembered how it was always filled with laughter.
As dawn broke on Sunday, they streamed into the house to say goodbye.
“When my friend who got the news told me: ‘Anton is gone, Evi is gone,’ it felt surreal,” said Rianto, a 50-year-old neighbor, who, like many Indonesians, goes by only one name. “We never expected this to happen.”
Mr. Yulianto, who worked in the waste department of a hospital, and Ms. Devi, a cleaner, were looking forward to the match. Alfi had convinced his parents to take him. It was his and his mother’s first Arema game and they went as a group of 10, along with the families of Mr. Yulianto’s sister and other neighbors.
When the match ended, the group was preparing to leave until they saw crowds of people heading to the exits. They decided to wait because of the children, according to Doni Alamsi, Mr. Yulianto’s brother-in-law. Then, the police started firing tear gas into the stands.
“Once they shot the tear gas, we all scattered,” said Mr. Doni. “In my mind, I could only think about the kids.”
Mr. Doni grabbed his 10-year-old son, Daffa, and managed to make it to the exit. There, he waited about 15 minutes for his relatives to show up.
He felt someone poke him on his thigh. It was Alfi, who was alone.
Mr. Doni started to worry. “Did you see your parents fall?” he asked Alfi. The boy nodded.
Mr. Doni went back into the stadium, and saw people carrying Ms. Devi out. They laid her on the ground. Next to her, there were rows of bodies.
He turned to look for his brother-in-law, who was being carried out as well.
Mochammad Imam Syafi’I, a neighbor who had gone to the match with the families, told stadium officials that Mr. Yulianto and Ms. Devi were married and should be placed together.
Mr. Imam took off his jacket to cover the young mother. Her cheekbones were bruised.
For the next hour, Mr. Doni stood there among the bodies, fanning Mr. Yulianto, hoping he was still alive.
The children were taken home as Mr. Doni waited for word of his relatives’ deaths. After word came, their bodies were moved to a hospital parking lot, their names tied to their wrists for identification.
Suyono Wibowo was at home when he heard a commotion outside. Someone said: “Big Sister Evi passed away.”
He said he could not believe it. His wife said they should wait for a confirmation about their neighbor.
Then, they saw a friend bring home the three boys — Alfie, Daffa, and another neighbor’s son.
Every one in the neighborhood swung into action. Muslim tradition dictates that bodies have to be buried within 24 hours.
It was around 4 a.m. when an ambulance arrived carrying the bodies of the young couple.
Siti Kumayah, a neighbor, said she forced open the door to the couple’s house to clean it so that the bodies could be placed there. Someone else put up a curtain in the alley so the bodies could be washed. Another person called around to borrow another coffin — the neighborhood had only one.
No one slept that night.
Mr. Suyono bathed Mr. Yulianto’s body. “His condition was good, clean and no wounds at all,” he said. Mr. Imam’s mother bathed Ms. Devi.
They wrapped the couple in kaffan cloth, the shroud for Muslim funerals, and placed them in their house.
After friends and families came and paid their respects, their bodies were carried to the mosque.
Everyone then recited the funeral prayer that Muslims recite before every burial:
O God, forgive them and have mercy on them, Keep them safe and sound and forgive them, Honor their rest and ease their entrance; Wash them with water and snow and hail, And cleanse them of sin as a white garment is cleansed of dirt. O God, give them a home better than their home and a family better than their family. O God, admit them to paradise and protect them from the torment of the grave and the torment of hell fire; Make their grave spacious and fill it with light.
Dozens of people walked the couple’s coffins to a cemetery nearly two miles away.
Mr. Imam and other men had dug a grave large enough to accommodate both of them. The men in the family lowered their bodies and placed three fist-sized spheres of soil to prop up the corpses — one under the head, one under the chin and one under the shoulder. This was to ensure that they were facing Mecca to await the day of resurrection.
Alfi stood over his parents’ bodies, scattering an assortment of flowers over them. They were mostly roses, which Muslims consider
to be the flower of heaven.
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