“We stand together. We are Manchester.”
One week ago today, an act of unspeakable violence was committed in our city. Twenty two innocent people lost their lives and over a hundred were injured after a terrorist attack at Ariana Grande’s Manchester Arena concert. It is virtually impossible to find the words to discuss what took place last Monday night – I am sure that wherever you are reading this in the world, you will have seen television coverage and read news items about those who were killed and the events surrounding the attack. Today, I am going to be speaking about Manchester’s response to what happened, but if you would like to read the latest news updates on the bombing I can recommend visiting the Manchester Evening News website.
As many of you will know, I was born in Greater Manchester and live in the city centre with my fiancé. Until recently, we lived in an apartment virtually next to the Arena and I have attended more concerts there than I can count. We still live close to the venue, though last Monday morning we actually flew to Majorca and only returned to our beloved city yesterday. The reason for this context is not an excuse to speak about myself, but to assist me in describing the impact of what we experienced when we were finally able to walk around Manchester earlier today.
We were 900 miles from home when we heard about the atrocious attack, and after the initial shock of the news we began to feel guilty for not being there to help in whatever way we could. Seeing social media posts from friends and family about blood donation drives, fundraising for the victims and acts of pure selflessness following the bombing was overwhelmingly emotional. The photographs and videos from the Town Hall vigil were so poignant and we were constantly checking for any updates on those missing, hoping with all our hearts that they’d be found safe.
Today, one week later, we were able to see for ourselves how our city has responded to the attack. The photo above and the two below were taken in St Ann’s Square – seeing the ocean of flowers, teddy bears, balloons and candles was one of the most moving things we’ve ever experienced. I was not alone in breaking down whilst standing there looking out over the tributes, and will never forget what I heard a little girl standing with her mum next to us say. Upon seeing just how many bouquets of flowers were laid down, the girl asked, “Mummy, is that how many angels there are?” – I pictured the mum having to explain what had happened to her daughter, and for a few moments I could do nothing but cry with my fellow Mancunians. Sometimes there are just no words.
Next to this stunning visual representation of grief and compassion, there were other things that immediately stood out as we continued to walk around the city. You may have read quotes and statements about how Manchester will stand together in strength and unity, and never let hate triumph over the love this city radiates, but it’s not until you walk along the streets and feel these sentiments in action that you realise how genuine they are. Armed police officers speaking with and reassuring children, remarkable artwork adorning walls in the Norther Quarter, lines of people queueing to get tattoos of the Manchester Worker Bee, locals (including young Muslim man Baktash Noori yesterday) offering free hugs… the list of inspiring sights around the city is endless.
One thing I wanted to draw attention to in this post is something I’m sure many of you will already be aware of, but it is important to mention again nonetheless. There are some amazing fundraising initiatives taking place at the moment in aid of the families of those killed and injured in the attack, most prominently this JustGiving page set up by the Manchester Evening News in partnership with the British Red Cross. Many local shops around Manchester are selling items where all profits go towards the fundraising too (just be cautious and ask questions if you’re unsure of where your donation may be going). If you are able to and wish to give any money, I hope this link and information is helpful.
It goes without saying that our thoughts are constantly with the families of those who died, and with those recovering from their injuries. We all hope they are gaining some strength and comfort from the outpouring of support. It also goes without saying that the emergency services who attended the site of the attack, and those who worked (and are still working) tirelessly to help and protect the victims and the city are true heroes. I truly hope you’re able to see and feel every ounce of the gratitude Manchester has for you. It was also inspiring to see that Ariana Grande is returning to Manchester to help raise further funds for those affected with an upcoming show – as I said on Twitter a few days ago, I have no doubt that she will forever be welcomed back to our city with open arms.
I would like to end this post with a few lines from Tony Walsh’s poem This Is The Place. You may recognise it – he read it out loud at the Town Hall vigil on Tuesday evening and the video of his recital has been shared thousands of times.
And there’s hard times again in these streets of our city
But we won’t take defeat and we don’t want your pity
Because this a place where we stand strong together
With a smile on our face, Mancunians Forever
Because this is the place in our hearts, in our homes
Because this is the place that’s a part of our bones
Because Manchester gives us such strength from the fact
That this is the place. We should give something back.
Always remember. Never forget. Forever Manchester.