For those of you unaware: Manchester is my home. And, unless you are a hermit with no access to the outside world, you will have heard of the atrocious act of violence which took place within my beloved city on 22 May 2017 – claiming the lives of 22 innocent music lovers and injuring so many more. Many for which it will be a long, slow road to recovery. The vast majority were just children, who had yet to live and experience many of life’s wonders.
A Broken City.
It is an absolute understatement to say we, as a city, are heart broken by this cowardly attack. It has been a very dark time here in this incredible, welcoming city. With so many young lives taken, families torn apart and a city in mourning, left reeling with shock. It’s incredibly difficult to imagine how life can go on. How it can return to some sort of ‘normal’. But it must. And it will. We’re a resilient bunch, here in Manchester.
Manchester has been attacked before. The IRA, the Luftwaffe… they’ve all had a go. But it’s in such times, her people pull together as one big, undivided community. It’s the very nature of who we are. We stand together, shoulder to shoulder, regardless of culture, colour or allegiance to faith, and be defiant against those who try to break us. It’s in our DNA to become stronger with every blow delivered to us. We believe that just because something awful has happened to us, it will not determine our future. But getting on with ordinary life won’t be easy either.
It’s important to remember that even though we may feel scared of the future or vulnerable to even contemplate getting on with our lives in the same way, one thing remains the same: even broken crayons can still colour. And so we must continue and rebuild…
St Anne’s Square has become the city’s focal point for those wishing to pay their respects to those beautiful souls who lost their lives that night. There is a sea of floral tributes, teddy bears and messages of condolence. There’s tributes from individuals, businesses, organisations, religious leaders, cities, countries… This event has touched everyone.
Build-a-bear workshop in Manchester’s Arndale Centre had given a teddy bear for each of the victims – with their name on the certificate. Although utterly heart breaking to see, I thought this was a lovely gesture as so many died so young. Some messages were of sadness, some of unity and some of sheer defiance.
As the tributes are being gently removed, more arrive. They just keep on coming. Such has been the profundity of this attack on everyone, not just those of us who live here.
It was an act that was aimed at dividing us and destroying our way of life, but which ultimately failed. It has done the absolute opposite: we united, grew stronger in our numbers and showed a respectful compassion for others. But above all else, we showed love.
These weak-minded idiots are attempting to drive a wedge between us by casting a shadow over the whole Muslim community by claiming these barbaric attacks are done in the name of Islam. They are foolish enough to think they can divide us and expect us to turn on each other. This is why we have shown defiance. In true Mancunian style some showed their beliefs by getting their cars wrapped to show solidarity for each other.
Heroism in the face of horror
The emergency services were the true heroes on the night – and since. Acting with true professionalism. There is now a real camaraderie between them and the public they keep safe and well. It must be said, throughout this whole monstrous act, the human spirit has prevailed. Acts of kindness – from the taxi drivers taking home the traumatised concert goers free of charge; the homeless running to the scene to help the injured; people rushing to donate food, water & blood – the very best of the human spirit has shone brightly.
Immediately after the bombing emergency fundraising, to support those most affected by the attacks, was set up by Manchester City Council and The British Red Cross and supported by Manchester Evening News. Initially, the people of Manchester showed their generosity donating £2m in just 24 hours. These fundraising efforts joined forces and in less than 2 weeks the total raised hit more than a staggering £10m. Everyone rallied round – a global effort. You can show your support by donating to the red cross Manchester appeal here https://beta.redcross.org.uk/appeal/manchester-emergency-fund-concert
This is MY city
Over the course of the first week, I went on my own personal rollercoaster journey through a whole range of emotions. When I awoke to the news of what had happened, after the initial shock and horror, the anger kicked in. I was absolutely livid that some low-life, with less brains than they were born with, would – or could – do this to MY welcoming, tolerance-of-all, fabulous city.
Days passed along with each emotion. I felt utterly heart-broken. Every time I saw a parent of the lost children on the news, I unashamedly had free flowing burning hot tears streaming down my face. It’s during these dark times we hold our own children that bit closer. Mine have been in fear of suffocation at times since, such has been my grip on them!
We had a weeks family holiday planned which was due to leave the week after the atrocity. Anyone who knows me well would say whenever I am about to go on holiday, I am like a child at Christmas! Under normal circumstances, I am usually beyond excited about my imminent holidays. So much so that it can be very annoying for everyone around me! But not this time. These were not normal circumstances and my focus was clearly elsewhere.
An air of calm and a sea of tributes
Like many, I felt so preoccupied with the awful events. It was even difficult to enthuse excitement for our impending break, even for the sake of my children. So, after many long sleepless nights, I decided I needed to pay my respects at St Anne’s Square – the focal point of the city’s grief. It took me several days to gain the strength to do so, but I felt utterly compelled to visit the ‘shrine’, out of respect for all those affected. I simply could not move on without doing so.
Despite it being a very difficult thing to do, I am so glad I went. The atmosphere was so serene, incredibly emotional but with an air of calm. All different kinds of people were quietly observing the scene before them. A complete stranger asked if she could give me a hug because I ‘looked lost’. Once I had regained my composure, I returned the favour to another ‘lost soul’, who was clearly very distressed. This is who we are. This is Manchester. This is MY city. I have an immense pride for the way my city and her people have pulled together and dealt with this atrocity with dignity.
We Stand Together
After taking this time to pay my respects, I felt I was able to take the first step forward. We couldn’t have timed our holiday any better and it turned out to be just the tonic we needed. That’s not to say, whilst we were away, we buried our heads in the sand and forgot about home. That was totally impossible. Manchester was never far from our thoughts.
Even my little girls were drawing the Manchester Bee – the symbol of our city, in the sand and writing ‘I love MCR’. But it gave me the much needed time to process my feelings about what had happened. I believe this is an important step for anyone dealing with grief or shock.
The airline with whom we flew back to the UK, Thomas Cook, had shown their respect by having the ‘I Love Mcr’ branding displayed on their plane. This was such a lovely gesture, which I know many of us on board really appreciated. Thomas Cook have donated £100,000K and had a collection on board in aid of the Red Cross Manchester fund. Such a generous act of kindness.
The Bee: Mad for it!
People all around the world are showing their support by posting images and messages on social media with #WeStandWithManchester. After a Facebook campaign requested hearts, people got crafty. With over 18500 hearts being sent form all corners of the globe. Each of these have since been hung along the streets from Manchester Arena and stretched all the way to St Anne’s Square. The idea is you can take one home with you and display it to show love and support.
Local buses are displaying ‘I Love Mcr’ on their digital boards and the bee symbol of our city is popping up everywhere! People are paying to have bee tattoos done with all proceeds going directly to the fund. Even the trams are covered in bees. The creatives of the city have come out in force with their sculptures and murals of bees emblazing walls in the Northern Quarter of the city. Bees have never been so loved! It’s all a wonderful show of solidarity.
One Love Manchester: Good will always win over evil
We flew back whilst the Ariana Grande’s ‘One Love Manchester’ event was taking place at Old Trafford. Although I was so disappointed to be unable to attend, I was determined to watch it. It was a spectacular, unified event. An opportunity for everyone to come together, to show love for humanity and to celebrate the lives lost – through music. Once again, Manchester’s underlying defiance in the face of horror shone brightly. I’ve always thought it strange how the message of some songs, many of which were written several years ago, still ring so true today. The Black Eyed Peas ‘Where is the Love?’ and Robbie Williams ‘Angels’. I guess music is timeless.
The merchandise worn by many of the artists can be found at https://uk.onelovemanchestershop.com/
Local poet Tony Walsh read his poem ‘This is the place’ on a packed tram home from the One Love Manchester concert to rapturous cheers from fellow travellers. He first read the poem at the vigil in Albert Square the day after the atrocity. This poem is an ode to his home city and has come to symbolise Manchester’s defiance in the wake of the Arena bomb.
There is no North/South divide
Just weeks later there was another attack. This time London was the target of hate. Upon hearing the news, Manchester declared solidarity with her sister city and her people. Family members of those affected by the Manchester bombing bravely visited the capital to pay their respects and to show solidarity. Our message to those in London? ‘We stand strong, shoulder to shoulder with you and extend the hand of friendship, love and unity.’
The British Red Cross have set up another fundraising site, in light of the London attack. You can show you stand together with all affected by the attacks by donating to The UK Solidarity fund here. https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/redcross/UKsolidarityfund
Keep the faith
Admittedly, I am still trying to find my own way out of this darkness. It’s early days and the wounds are raw for us all. Emotions run high. For me, I still feel the heat of tears welling up in me when I think about it all, or if I see it on the news. But I am so proud, that an act intent on tearing us apart, had delivered the exact opposite result in Manchester’s people, making us more united than ever.
As a parent, these dreadful barbaric events do make me wonder what kind of world I have brought my children into. It’s very important to keep a clear perspective. I remind myself of the words in the poem, ‘Desiderata’: “ With all it’s sham drudgery and broken dreams, it’s still a beautiful world’. We must keep faith in love and humanity.
Making our tomorrows better
Trying to find the way through any curveballs life has a habit of hurling towards us at a rate of knots, can be a really hard and scary process. But it’s important to remember that is all it is. A process. Yes, making the first move is the hardest of steps. It always is. But by taking even those initial small steps, you can make a big difference in the long run.
I think for us all, it’s about taking each day at a time. Personally, I aim to make tomorrow a little better than today. One day at a time. I will not be afraid to go out and enjoy my city and my life, as I have always done. ‘No Fear Here’ is a message this city is shouting loud and proud. It won’t be long before we, as a city and as a country, can look back and realise just how far we’ve come and how much stronger we are – together. We will always rise above evil.
It’s at times like this when people show their true colours. I, for one , will remember the kindness of strangers above all. They were there for us.
In the light of these past few weeks of horror, Martin Luther King Jr’s message of love rings truer than ever: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that”.
Help to spread the message of L♥︎VE
My thoughts and prayers are with those who tragically had their lives stolen and the families they have left behind. They have shown such dignity and courage in their darkest hours. I pray for a speedy recovery to all those who are still recovering in hospital and to those for whom this will be a long road ahead. You’ll be forever in our hearts. Manchester ♥︎s you.
Please help to spread the love by sharing this article as far and wide as you possibly can. It would be fabulous to spread a message of love, stand up against hate and to raise awareness to make more money for the emergency funds. Thank you x
Much Love and Peace,
Should you need support after the Manchester attack you can contact Victim Support’s 24 hour helpline on 0808 16 89 111.
This week saw me make my first return to the arena to watch a concert with my 12 year old daughter. I was a little apprehensive at first, but I guess so were the other thousands of people surrounding us. I’ll admit it felt somewhat bittersweet being there: on the one hand it was wonderful to see so many people having a great time, but in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help feel a pang of sorrow for those 22 innocents who had their lives stolen back in May.
But the nature of this brilliant city is defiant. We don’t take things lying down. Someone tried to divide us with hate – we fought back with love. We won’t allow one barbaric act prevent us from having a good time. In the words of another one hailing from this wonderful city: “This is Manchester. We do things differently here.”