My blogger-poet-friend, Andy, is a native Mancunian. These are excerpts taken from his account of and reactions to this attack of the innocents.
Around the time I went to bed the bomb went off.
I was totally unaware of what had happened until around 3.00am, when my wife woke me. Friends from around the country, indeed the world, had messaged us. Then, bleary eyed, we tried to process just what had happened.
There was footage of the panic; people searching for lost children; a distressed woman rang our local radio station with a horrific account of what she had witnessed; friends of ours announced that they were safe.
The friend of my little girl was at the concert with her family. There were other people attending that we know. My daughter herself was at a concert in that same venue just a couple of weeks ago. The arena can be accessed through the train station which I have been commuting from. Not so long ago I attended the Young Voices competition as a staff member with my children’s school choir. 8,000 children were present that day. Suddenly the horror that regularly unfolds throughout the world was on our doorstep…
…Manchester is no stranger to such atrocities. There was the IRA bomb of 1996 which utterly devastated the town centre. The Manchester we know today rose from the ashes of that day. But back then everybody had been evacuated, miraculously nobody was killed. Last night it was people targeted.
It was children.
…Today has been a difficult day.
-The girls from my daughter’s class crying this morning in the playground in fear for a classmate who attended the concert. (She did not come into school but she was safe.)
-The tales related personally to us by people who were there, as well as someone who treated the injured in hospital.
-The distraught woman begging on television for news of her (still) missing daughter.
-The story of the homeless man, normally passed by and ignored on the street, who ran to help the injured, cradling a dying woman in his arms, comforting a young girl who had lost her legs, pulling nails from the faces of children.
-The victims beginning to be named, the ages, the photographs.
…It was announced that today the country would observe a minute’s silence to honour those killed on Monday. Where else could I go to honour this but Manchester? Despite the unprecedented step of the army being deployed to assist the police throughout the country and the government warning that another attack was imminent, avoiding this crowd was never an option.
My fellow Mancunians came good again: what a fitting and emotional morning it was. There were tears amongst the defiance, balloons filling the clear blue skies. And the fantastic moment when the crowd burst into a spontaneous rendition of Don’t Look Back In Anger by Manchester band Oasis, followed by thunderous self-congratulatory applause.
How ironic that an action designed to cause division has created a unity I have never witnessed before.
Adding to the emotion of the day: while gathered in the square, I received a message from a former student of ours, telling us that his family were standing with us in support, and here in Germany his family were flying at half mast a British flag in solidarity for his former adopted city.
For local news videos of the various marches held in Manchester – go here for the laying of flowers at St. Anne’s Square after the minute of silence and here for the Muslim families marching to the arena in sympathy with those who lost loved ones in the blast.
Andy’s comment below servess as a sort-of followup to the above excerpts:
I’d like to put on record how proud I am of my fellow Mancunians. Not just the emergency services but the everyday people, how they came together in response. A page was set up on FB with people offering beds for the night, transport to and from Manchester, baby food, clothing, etc. The local hotels took in children separated from their parents, taxi drivers ferried people from the city centre free of charge, queues formed outside places for donating blood. Thousands are having the ‘Manchester bee’ (the worker bee is a symbol for Manchester in reference to its industrial revolution past) tattooed on their skin with proceeds going to charity. Over five million pounds have been raised in three days. It is not often I’m moved to be proud of where I live, but this week I have been. Immensely. The best of humanity has been witnessed emerging in the shadow of the worst.