In Memoriam and Defiance: Manchester Arena Terror Attack, 22/05/17

Unless you’ve been living under a rock all week, you’ll doubtless be aware of the suicide attack that took place at Manchester Arena. The attack took place at an event attended by 21,000 children, teenagers and parents. The event was specifically targeted at this particular event, seemingly because of the anticipated audience. Given that most, if not all major religions consider children to be innocents, this makes the event even more horrific. Within pretty much the same day, a bus in Syria that was transporting evacuees was hit, killing 68 children amongst others.

Given my own extremely recent fatherhood (as I write this, Owen is 15 days old), this whole situation resonates that bit more powerfully. I suppose also, given my somewhat jaundiced view of human nature, I’m typically predisposed toward a “people are the worst / the world is fucked” kind of world view. However, from looking at my Facebook feed over the last couple of days, I’ve seen messages of defiance and resilience and examples of true compassion. A particular story was that of Steve, a homeless man who selflessly rushed to help the injured. Following his actions, there had been a fund raising campaign to help get him off the streets, including help from the West Ham Utd chairman, which has seen Steve get his own place to live.

Another example would be Manchester tattoo artists coming together to do a charity tattooing event to raise funds for the victims, by tattooing the Manchester bee on as many people as possible.

Following the attack, the stalwart people of Manchester are bloodied but unbowed. They’ve gathered in huge numbers in public for vigils, and to hear Jeremy Corbyn give a speech (go Jezza!).

Music is something that a lot of us view as being our ‘safe place’. Given this, and the events in France at the Eagles of Death Metal show not so long ago, this is a concept that is being somewhat challenged. These kids that lost their lives this week could’ve gone on to do virtually anything with their lives. Some of them might have even found their way to being part of our punk subculture. Anything was possible for them. All I can say is rest in peace, and my heart goes out to the friends and families of all the victims.

Without wanting this to become too disjointed, and given my usual piss-stained outlook, I’ve felt oddly inspired to try and collect together, for posterity something of a snapshot of the fleeting nature of my social media feed around this event. There really was so much to choose from, so I tried to get a reasonable mix of stuff. So here it is, starting with my own comment… Sorry if its a bit shit.

Manchester, stay strong, stay proud, stay defiant. RISE ABOVE!

Tony Maher, Croydon

In between nappies etc., I’ve been following what’s been going down in Manchester over the last 15 hours or so. I can only echo what everyone else is saying. That city was the one I called home from 98 – 2010. My heart goes out to anyone directly or indirectly affected by this series of tragic events.
2017 and still people can’t get along. The state of the world is, as ever deeply saddening. Keep safe friends. Keep your wits about you, and stick up for anyone unjustly getting grief from the usual array bigots and racists.
Only through unity can we find strength.

Emily Johnson, Manchester
I was working in London on Monday / Tuesday & turned my phone off early in an attempt to wind down… I turned it on at 7am the following morning (as well as my work phone) and went to brush my teeth. As I was in the bathroom I was aware that both phones were buzzing like crazy…. But that’s not an unusual situation (not least due to the number of busy WhatsApp groups I’m in). I turned on the TV and read the words “Manchester Bombing”, and in truth went straight into shock. The messages then made sense – message after message from friends, family & work colleagues wanting to know if I was okay. I stumbled through a few responses, and rang my boss. I have a team of c. 70 people in Manchester, and it was clear that we were going to have to run a call cascade & check every individual was okay. At this point I started to digest that it wasn’t just colleagues, it was likely to be their families, and their children – my boss advised he already knew of one family from our office who had children at the concert (thankfully safe – just shaken up). I don’t have kids, but I can tell you being a boss brings out my maternal streak (“she wolf” is the phrase often used) – I’m incredibly protective, and if anyone messes with my cubs, I see red.

I looked at my diary for the day – back to back meetings with senior people, and some important papers that needed to be finished that day. Every fibre of my body told me I needed to get back to Manchester as soon as possible, so I made a split second decision to clear the lot. I rang a London colleague and asked her to help arrange cover – she just said one word, “Go”. At that moment I realised quite how much Londoners understood this, and quite how much the pain of 7/7 and the Westminster attacks meant that – whilst they can sometimes seem rich, arrogant and derogatory to the north – at that moment they loved my city as much as I did.

By now I was running late – I threw my things in my case & left the hotel in a blur. I’ve walked the path to the tube platform hundreds of times, but found myself confused. At one point I even walked the wrong way. As I stood on the tube platform I became angry – why was it taking so long, why were there so many people getting in the way? I just wanted to scream “I’m trying to get to Manchester!”. (By the way, I also thought of Nick, which happens to me every time I go on the underground). As I squashed into a tube carriage, sweating under my northern coat and scarf, I started to feel frightened. Was the tube safe? Everyone was scowling in the way commuters do…. I started to wonder if the scowls meant they were bombers, and I also wanted to scowl back. Get out of my way, I’m trying to get to Manchester. I finally got to Euston & got on a train – most seats around me were filled with journalists and camera crews – with no chance of an election to cover, they were taking their chances with Manchester. Everyone else looked distracted and scared – drawn home in the same way I was, but wondering if they were doing the right thing?

Manchester Piccadilly was chaotic when I arrived at midday. People trying to leave (the Arndale Centre had just been evacuated, and many businesses had decided to send people home), and journalists and police were everywhere. My ticket didn’t go through the barrier. I saw red again. Why was this all taking so long?? Ah yes, my ticket went to Stockport (ten minutes from Manchester, and where I live / had intended to travel back to that evening). I queued to explain to Virgin trains, who asked me to join another queue to pay a £3.70 top up (on a £250 ticket). The woman who took my money asked if I was okay. I took a deep breath, tried to stay calm, and explained that in the context of a disaster like this, Richard Branson should probably take a more pragmatic view of how to support his customers. (I have subsequently complained to Virgin, who maintain that even in difficult situations the rules should be applied).

With the Arndale evacuated, and many businesses closing, trying to leave the station was like swimming against the tide. A friend from work texted me to say his team were all being sent home. I decided to walk the long way round to my office at Spinningfields, in case the “trouble” at the Arndale worsened. I messaged my husband to tell him what I was doing, fearing that he would see reports and panic about where I was. I felt like I was in a disaster movie – police, journalists, and everyone running away – and yet I still felt like I had to be back with my team. As I passed the Town Hall I was aware of crowds starting to form, and even more TV crews (it being one of the more picturesque spots – they are still there today). As I got to the Business District, the surroundings felt eerily quiet – I couldn’t work out if everyone had gone home, or if this was just a normal working day… which just felt calm compared to the last few hours of chaos.

The team were a bit confused to see me – “aren’t you supposed to be in London?”… I explained that I wanted to be back with them. I’m not sure if it helped – but I guess given they were hearing reports of people being sent home, it was good to lead by example and be there. I worried that I was doing the wrong thing by keeping them in the office – but all advice from the police & our security team was to operate as normal. And the stubborn adopted northerner in me also didn’t want the perpetrators to cause any more disruption than they already had. Keep calm and carry on… but still the nagging doubt that I could be putting them at risk. As a boss I always worry that the decisions I make might be wrong – and I worry about the impact that has on my team. Never before have I worried that this could include their lives or physical health…. A really sobering insight into what it must be like for police, firefighters or the military. Having to do a headcount of individuals that morning is an exercise I don’t want to repeat – and yet in the current climate it feels inevitable.

As an extrovert, it’s also clear to me that in moments of adversity I need to be with people. That drove me wanting to be back in Manchester with my team, my loved ones & a city that was processing exactly what I was processing. It was also clear to me that I wanted to stay out for the Town Hall vigil that evening – as well as a few drinks in the sun with some of my best friends. The crowd at the vigil was huge, and against a beautiful blue sky I couldn’t help but beam with happiness. It was so busy that we couldn’t get close enough to her anything. Who was talking? The clock sounded 6pm – I was chatting away & asking people what we should even be expecting?! I assumed speeches. Possibly music?! Hopefully not prayers. I then realised that people were glaring at me & this must be a two minutes silence. Eek. Vigils should come with agendas please…

Someone then started speaking. We assumed Andy Burnham, based on no facts. He was very quiet but we just cheered and clapped at the appropriate intervals. Then someone else spoke – he was louder, and there were more cheers and even some laughs. After a couple of drinks I made it home and realised this was actually an incredible poem by Tony Walsh, and it finally drew out a host of tears which adrenalin had kept at bay until that point (and gin had coaxed in).

In hindsight I’ve really just bounced through the change curve in 24hrs – shock, denial, anger & depression…. But I’m now mostly fully recovered & able to “keep calm and carry on”. Many families don’t have that luxury, and not everyone can process things as fast as my impatient and easily distracted brain tends to. I send them my love, and also to the many, many people who contacted me yesterday to send their best wishes. It meant a huge amount to me – and I’m incredibly proud that for many friends around the country (& the world), I’m the person they think of when they hear the word “Manchester”. It’s a pretty great place to be associated with.

Em (Adopted Northerner) xxx

Clara Barker, Oxford UK:

My home.

I still remember the aftermath of the IRA attacks in ’92 and the big one in ’96. Luckily no one was killed then. But I had the same panic for friends and family working / shopping / living right in the area.

Friends of mine work at the Arena, live close and pass through to get home. So yes, it hurts more than a bombing in a far off place. None are worse than each other, only worse to me. I have been to the Arena a bunch of times down the years – seen so many bands. And they targeted the exit I always use. Similar to the Paris bombings, I really could have been there. So I become fearful and I hurt.

Oh, but this targeted a young audience. That is gross. They took a bomb to a public area (despite the media questions of “where were the searches” this is a public space so sod their lazy journalism). A public area, at the end of an awesome time when families are waiting to pick up their children. A central travel route for commuters in Manchester. This was pure evil on the part of a few deranged zealots. This was not a religion or a race, just a few mad men and nothing more glorious or interesting that that.

I am proud to see the people of Manchester rally together. Not surprised, but very proud. As a lifelong Mancunian until a few years back, I am unsure how I would have reacted. Having to go to work in the city as I have most of my life. But I hope I have the courage to go on as those folks did. To help out, do what I can. See them shouting down the EDL. I feel a little helpless seeing those folks helping out in my home with me doing nothing. But yes, I am proud of my fellow Mancunians.

Zander Meadway, Birmingham (Alabama)
The city I used to call home has a history of people coming together and standing up to wrongs. In the aftermath of a callous bombing I was heartened to see that this notion of solidarity has not gone. The stories of all those who helped out in any way they could in the aftermath, and the thousands that turned out in Albert Square show a strength against horror that armed police and soldiers on the streets never can. Well done, Manchester.

TNS Records (Manchester)

Our thoughts are with everyone affected by last nights attack in Manchester. We are completely lost for words. So we will use those of poet Tony Walsh at the vigil in Manchester today.
“This is the place
In the north-west of England. It’s ace, it’s the best
And the songs that we sing from the stands, from our bands
Set the whole planet shaking.
Our inventions are legends. There’s nowt we can’t make, and so we make brilliant music
We make brilliant bands
We make goals that make souls leap from seats in the stands
And we make things from steel
And we make things from cotton
And we make people laugh, take the mick sommat rotten
And we make you at home
And we make you feel welcome and we make summat happen
And we can’t seem to help it
And if you’re looking from history, then yeah we’ve a wealth
But the Manchester way is to make it yourself.
And make us a record, a new number one
And make us a brew while you’re up, love, go on
And make us feel proud that you’re winning the league
And make us sing louder and make us believe that this is the place that has helped shape the world
And this is the place where a Manchester girl named Emmeline Pankhurst from the streets of Moss Side led a suffragette city with sisterhood pride
And this is the place with appliance of science, we’re on it, atomic, we struck with defiance, and in the face of a challenge, we always stand tall, Mancunians, in union, delievered it all
Such as housing and libraries and health, education and unions and co-ops and first railway stations
So we’re sorry, bear with us, we invented commuters. But we hope you forgive us, we invented computers.
And this is the place Henry Royce strolled with Rolls, and we’ve rocked and we’ve rolled with our own northern soul
And so this is the place to do business then dance, where go-getters and goal-setters know they’ve a chance
And this is the place where we first played as kids. And me mum, lived and died here, she loved it, she did.
And this is the place where our folks came to work, where they struggled in puddles, they hurt in the dirt and they built us a city, they built us these towns and they coughed on the cobbles to the deafening sound to the steaming machines and the screaming of slaves, they were scheming for greatness, they dreamed to their graves.
And they left us a spirit. They left us a vibe. The Mancunian way to survive and to thrive and to work and to build, to connect, and create and greater ― Manchester’s greatness is keeping it great.
And so this is the place now with kids of our own. Some are born here, some drawn here, but all call it home.
And they’ve covered the cobbles, but they’ll never defeat, all the dreamers and schemers who still teem through these streets
Because this is a place that has been through some hard times: oppressions, recessions, depressions, and dark times.
But we keep fighting back with greater Manchester spirit. Northern grit, northern wit, and greater Manchester’s lyrics
And these hard times again, in these streets of our city, but we won’t take defeat and we don’t want your pity.
Because this is a place where we stand strong together, with a smile on our face, greater Manchester forever
And we’ve got this place where a team with a dream can get funding and something to help with a scheme.
Because this is a place that understands your grand plans. We don’t do “no can do” we just stress “yes we can”
Forever Manchester’s a charity for people round here, you can fundraise, donate, you can be a volunteer. You can live local, give local, we can honestly say, we do charity different, that Mancunian way
And we fund local kids, and we fund local teams. We support local dreamers to work for their dreams. We support local groups and the great work they do. So can you help us. help local people like you?
Because this is the place in our hearts, in our homes, because this is the place that’s a part of our bones
Because greater Manchester gives us such strength from the fact that this is the place, we should give something back
Always remember, never forget, forever Manchester.”

We love you Manchester.

Alexander East, Manchester

Johnny Marr played with Broken Social Scene and I uncontrollably sobbed for about 20 minutes. I love Manchester and people here love music. We’ll keep going to gigs.

Sharhzad Amoli, London

#Manchester the beautiful city where I was born ?? I’ve experienced taking or dropping off my child to concerts or waiting out in the foyer. To think of children and teenagers and parents going through such horror and death and chaos – simply because they went for a night out to enjoy themselves. Despicable.

Muhammad Manzoor Ali, Manchester

My city, Manchester, today we stand together in grief and despair for those who’ve lost their lives, for the families who won’t see their loved ones again. To each and everyone of you, my thoughts and prayers are with you all, I as a British Muslim stand with each and everyone of you.

My duty, as a Muslim, is to protect my community, this beautiful city of mine is amongst the most compassionate. How can this tragedy have happened in our beautiful city? I’m at a loss.

Those innocent children killed by evil people with misguided evil thoughts. If you are celebrating what happened last night, take a good look at yourself and you should be ashamed of yourself. If you think that what happened last night was a good thing, then I’m at war with you and your thoughts and your ways.

My Islam teaches me to be kind, compassionate, caring, to save a life is to save humanity, to take a life is to kill humanity. My Islam teaches me to get rid of hate preachers, deal with preachers of hate in the severest of manners. My Islam teaches me to create harmony, inclusion and togetherness.

I’m a born and bred mancunian, I’m proud of my city, this is my home, all who were hurt and killed last night were my family. I’m hurt, everyone of us is hurt, all of us need to come to the aid of our family. This is simply humanity.

We won’t be beaten, we stand together. Manchester as one.

Antonia Ronayne, Manchester

Absolutely heartbroken. Please stay safe everyone.
There is a light that never goes out.

Gavin Brady, Salford
I’m angry and disgusted at the sick demented deed carried out by totally deluded subhuman scum.

Colin Stanworth, Manchester

Manchester can and will rise above this. Already hearing heart warming stories of strangers and the emergency services responding selflessly. My thoughts go out to all the families effected. Please don’t speculate and let this divide us. If you want to do something positive give blood at one of the local donor centres

Rosie Jane, Newcastle upon Tyne
I haven’t put any statuses because I don’t think I have the words. As a family we’re entered into the big runs on Sunday. Me the 10k ava and kev are doing the mini run together. On the one hand I want my daughter to hear the message loud and clear that we will stand proud and will not let anyone stop us. We will run because we can. On the other I’m petrified. I just want to hold her close to me and not let her out of my sight.

Tony Moss, Toronto

It’s a struggle to get into the mindset of somebody who will plan an attack by picking an event that demographically is skewed towards children and young teenagers, and then to arrive and walk towards a crowd fitting that description and deliberately kill and maim them. A few people, sadly including Erasure’s Andy Bell in a series of deleted tweets, have attempted a sort of moral relativism drawing parallels between this attack and the deaths of children in the middle east within the theatre of war. There may be an inkling of a point in there somewhere, but contrast a wayward bomb in a war zone to a person who has deliberately sought out a situation in which he can maximise the death and suffering of children and you are clearly talking about a different level of inhumanity.

It comes down to ideology. This monstrous loser considers his ideology to be worth more than the lives he took and ruined. The identity of the ideology itself doesn’t make much of a difference. Once you start to hold the tenets of your particular philosophy to be more important than the lives and freedoms of your fellow human beings, atrocity is sure to follow.

Bridie Ord, Durham

I am horrified by the whole thing it’s senseless actions but also think it’s sad that someone can be manipulated and deluded into thinking actions like this are for the greater good by people who are themselves manipulated and duped. As my partner has just said the world is going backwards and is just a steaming pile of shit at the moment.

Fiona Grace Wolstenholme

We just had confirmation last night my friend was killed so I’m a bit numb right now but would like to put something in words soon.

Dave Ainsworth, Manchester

These are the desperate acts of cowards, maniacs and thralls of an ideology that hates us and wants to kill us. They will never win any kind of conventional conflict so they resort to this, waging economic war on the west, forcing our governments to spend billions on counter terrorism by spending very little themselves, utilising our own ridiculous media to amplify the effects of their heinous acts to terrorise the population and manipulating our more ignorant citizens into lashing out at the (peaceful and equally disgusted) practitioners of Islam as a whole in order to radicalise potential new recruits.

I am angry, upset and conflicted about the whole situation. It feels like nothing will ever really change, that nothing will be done (what CAN be done?) and that my children will be under threat from these horrors for the rest of their lives. I just don’t see an end to it as it’s clear they won’t stop until everybody is dead. On the other hand, as seen in Manchester this week, these things unite us and bring out such kindness and compassion and bravery in us. And it seems like there’s very little that does that these days.

Marios Sozos, Salford

No one should go to a gig and not come back. Music is life. Manchester is strong.

Kamran James Haq, Manchester

Amazing to see so many people turn out for the Vigil at Manchester Town Hall this evening! Very proud to call Manchester my home!

Joe Barlow, West Houghton

The news about last night’s terrorist attack is absolutely heartbreaking. The one small positive I can scrape from it is that every single one of my friends’ posts on the internet and conversation I’ve had about it in real life has been about solidarity and supporting each other through this awful time.
More than anything terrorists want to scare people into becoming a mirror of their own disgusting fascism, and the overwhelming message I’ve seen so far is that they can just fuck off with that.

Jody Diaz Francis, Rota, Spain

I’ve considered Manchester my second home since college, I’ve worked in that Arena many times, and have friends who were working there last night. Glad they are all fine, but still so sad to hear the news either way.

Ele Shipway, Sutton Coldfield

It’s pretty much 20 years since I lived in Manchester but this still feels personal. I spent my formative years care free at concerts around the city, despite the then threat from the IRA, and I don’t want this generation to have to curtail their enjoyment of life. This is the action of a nutter (whatever their supposed motivation) and nutters don’t get to control us. Stay strong everyone.

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