I was 300 metres away when it happened.
On 22nd May 2017, about 10:30pm as I was lying in bed, I heard a sudden, thunderous crashing sound.
For a moment, I thought it was actually thunder, but when I looked out of my window, it wasn’t raining.
I went out onto my balcony. Neighbours had come out too. “Did you hear that?” I shouted over, “Yeah, what was it?” they replied. “I don’t know” I said, as we all looked toward the train station at the end of our road.
We would soon find out. The station alarm came on. It told people to evacuate the area. Sirens started sounding in the distance. A stream of police and ambulances arrived. Thousands of people started filing out from the concert hall, Manchester Arena. Traffic was blocked up. Confused, curious, and concerned, my partner and I checked social media all night as details began to emerge.
At first we thought something might have collapsed, maybe a part of a building or a crane, it had happened before. But we couldn’t see any smoke. Maybe it was a train? We tried to stay rational, and not jump to any conclusions. But news started trickling through. Bad news. Something had happened at the Arena. A concert had just finished. Could it be something to do with a speaker, or some sort of stage effect? Looking back, it was way too loud to be something like that. We just didn’t want to think it was the one thing we were most afraid of…
A suicide bomber. A young male, who had lived and grown up in Manchester. It had happened, the terrible things you see on TV, it had happened to our home.
It was surreal. Unbelievable, except the blue lights kept flashing and sirens sounded all night. The police closed the roads and cordoned off the area. Injuries and fatalities were reported. Within a few days, all of the 22 people who had died had been named.
When it hit the news, it wouldn’t have been as real if we hadn’t heard the blast with our own ears, and saw the police and ambulances with our own eyes. They’re still there, right now, as I look out of my window. Police tape closes off the roads I have walked past a hundred times.
Now I have had nearly a week to reflect on it. I’m thankful that I’m fine, and so are my friends and loved ones, but that’s little consolation for the victims and families. The more I read about them (and I can’t help myself), the more sad I am for them. I feel a mixture of fear, guilt, and helplessness.
The tribute that was held for them was attended by thousands of people. Hundreds of flowers, cards, and candles have been laid out in the city centre. I went to pay my respects. It was good to see so many people there. Manchester has pulled together.
I love this city. It’s my home. I’m proud with how people have reacted, giving condolences, donating money, and helping where they can. I’ve noticed people being more kind to one another. Most people here aren’t ignorant enough to lay the blame on an entire religion. We’ve been saying, “We stand together”. That’s the kind of place this is.
Too often it takes a tragedy to remind us about what’s important in life. Those concert goers had no idea what was going to happen, but at least they were enjoying life to the full. We never know what life will bring, but the best we can do is to be thankful for each day and make the most of it.
Stay safe, and stay strong.