Remembering The Manchester Attack One Month On: How A City Stood Tall
Monday 22 May at 22:31 BST will forever be remembered as one of Manchester's darkest moments. Suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated an explosive device that took the lives of 22 innocent people, injured more than 100, and affected thousands.
The events unfolded following a concert by Ariana Grande, the American pop artist, who was performing at the Manchester Arena.
But in the hours, days and weeks that followed, something special happened in the city of Manchester. A strong sense of unification emerged.
On the night of the attack, strangers pulled together: taxi drivers offered free rides, local residents offered their spare rooms, and help - medical and otherwise - was offered from every conceivable avenue.
What Do We Know?
Within eight minutes of the first reports of an explosion at the Manchester Arena, the emergency services were at the scene. Although the initial reports suggested the bang to be little more than a speaker exploding, it soon became clear that this was something much worse.
In the hours that followed, Greater Manchester Police released details that confirmed the explosion had been caused by a detonated suicide bomb, adding that investigations were underway.
Natasha Pearson was there with her seven-year-old daughter, Myah. She told LADbible what she witnessed: "We came out the concert into the hall, went to turn right to where the t-shirts were and suddenly there was a massive big bang, a flash, and I remember seeing black things flying. I'd say if we'd left 30 seconds earlier we would have been hit.
"I had my daughter and her friend, so obviously tried to get them both out of there. But then I was like: 'Do we run and hide somewhere? Do we run for the door? What if another bomb goes off?'
"This all went through my head at the time. I grabbed their hands tight down the stairs. Literally everything was going through my head."
Natasha explained that her daughter Myah has been left mentally scarred by the incident. Her daughter, she says, now holds her hand when walking to school and has become more afraid of the dark.
- The bomber was named 24 hours later as 22-year-old Salman Abedi.
- Further raids and arrests were made across Greater Manchester, and also in Libya where Abedi's dad, Ramadan, and brother, Hasham, were also detained.
- Theresa May chaired two COBRA meetings which saw the terror threat raised from severe to critical
- The 22 victims were named one-by-one, the youngest being Saffie Roussos, 8, while others included couples and parents waiting to collect their kids.
- Over 100 injured people were taken to six nearby hospitals, including the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital - later visited by The Queen, Prince William and Ariana Grande.
Instantly, Manchester pulled together. At 18:00 BST on Tuesday 23 May, less than 24 hours since the attack, a vigil was held in the city's Albert's Square. On the Wednesday, the Muslim community came out in force in the city to speak out against the attack; meanwhile in Stockholm, Manchester United won the Europa League, supported even by their blue counterparts, Manchester City. Thursday 25 May saw a minute's silence held across the city and by Friday, a sea of flowers in St Ann's Square had been laid in memory of the victims.
Yet there'd also be another way to come together. A special event, like nothing the city had seen before - a true show of defiance.
The Return Of Ariana
On Friday, 27 May, Ariana Grande announced she'd be returning to the city on Sunday 4 June - less than a fortnight after the attack. Not only would she visit her fans in hospital, but she was going to put on a special concert. The One Love Manchester concert.
Over 50,000 people headed to the Emirates Old Trafford cricket ground to watch stars such as Coldplay, Katy Perry and Liam Gallagher, as well as Grande herself, performing to raise money for the families and victims of the attack. In all, the concert (plus all other fundraising) raised around £10m.
The One Love concert was special. It proved to the world that Manchester would not be beaten - a massive two fingers up at the terrorists and those who would do us harm.
On duty that night was PC Paul Taylor, drafted from Durham Police. He rapidly became a popular figure when video images flashed up of him, in full uniform, dancing in a circle with a group of young girls - yes, he's the dancing policeman.
He told LADbible: "The two girls [Teagan and Myah] grabbed my hand and asked if I would dance with them. I said yes, of course, because you're not going to say no to a couple of girls like that. I was only doing it for a minute, but it was shown on the BBC, and it went viral."
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He added: "I don't think there's many countries around the world where you'd get that type of spirit, to be honest. Even if the concert was a result of something really tragic, you could see people wanted to enjoy themselves. Yes, there were people who were upset, but they were helped by strangers. It was a nice atmosphere to be in."
But even amid the good times, a dark shadow still loomed. Natasha Pearson explained that her daughter was not comfortable at the gig.
"She wanted to leave 30 minutes before the end, and became increasingly anxious and tetchy," she said. "By 'Over the Rainbow' [the gig's closing song], Myah really wanted to go.
"Both girls instantly adopted the position of the night of the attack: their hands close to my chest. It was sad they felt like that, but talking to police and stroking police horses helped."
The word 'hero' in the modern day context has a very loose meaning. Your team's top striker is a 'hero' when he nets the winner. Your mate who necks a pint to win a fiver in the local is a 'hero'. But neither is a true hero.
A hero, according to Google, is described as 'a person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities'. What we witnessed on the night of the attack was heroism beyond any question.
PSCO Mark Renshaw was the first officer at the scene. He said: "I heard a loud explosion that literally shook me, everything shook.
"I saw people running and screaming, and my initial response was to go the same way they were all running, but something kicked in and I ran through the barriers, up the steps and into the foyer."
"We're just there to help and I don't think we thought about anything else."
That is a true hero.
Then came the paramedics. Staff who completed double shifts, staff who came in early, staff on a day off.
And then there's the stories of the civilians. Two homeless men came to the forefront of public attention with their attempts to save lives.
Chris Parker was begging in the foyer when the explosion occurred. He instantly got to his feet to selflessly help others, including a girl with 'no legs'. Later, he held one of the victims as they sadly died in his arms.
Then there's Steve. He told ITV: "Just because I'm homeless doesn't mean that I've not got a heart." He described helping a woman with bad leg injuries to stem the flow of blood.
Both men became subject to appeals. Chris' mum wanted to reunite with him, having lost contact, while Steve was offered support from West Ham United FC's co-owner, David Sullivan.
Where Do We Go From Here?
It's hard to say. Since the explosion at Manchester Arena, there has also been an attack at London Bridge, so many would question if there is an end to this mindless violence.
But it's important to stay strong, and appreciate those around us who are doing their best to help us continue our way of life - such as the emergency services.
PC Paul Taylor told LADbible, that the respect has been nice to see. "It's nice to hear the compliments," he said. "I've done 20 years of front-line policing and it's very rare you get a thank you. I think people are now appreciating what we do.
"It's not just the police officers, I'd say the same for all public sector workers. We try to do our best for people, no matter what you read, and how short we are on numbers."
Seven-year-old Myah has been inspired. She already wanted to be in the police, but having experienced their work first-hand, she said it's furthered her wish.
"I wanted to be a policeman before the incident, but now I want to be one even more now. I'm Police Interceptors mad. You can protect people, and you can get dogs, and you can keep them which is really cool," she said.
And Myah may not be the only one from the Pearson family joining. "I've just applied to go in myself," said Natasha. "I've wanted to do it for some time, but kept missing the deadlines, now I'm going to go for a full-time police officer.
"After the attack, I felt helpless. I wanted to help but didn't know what to do."
As for PC Taylor? He offers a final thought - a significant one: "These animals that are out there, don't let them stop you going about your everyday business. At concerts in the future, get yourself there, enjoy, don't be put off, don't let these people stop our way of life. We can't be beaten by these mindless idiots, go about your business as best you can.
"Don't let them win."
Featured Image Credit: PA