I decided to wait a day before writing this post so that I could comment with a clearer idea of the facts. I awoke yesterday morning to the shocking news that on Monday evening at just after 10.30pm a bomb had gone off at the Manchester Arena during an Ariana Grande concert. I did what I imagine many people who live in the city did that morning and turned the news straight on. A suicide bomber had detonated a device in the lobby of the MEN arena as the concert was finishing killing, now we know, 22 people and injuring 59 others. At the time of writing there are still loved ones missing.
I’m as guilty as most (at least in the Western world) of believing that acts of terrorism happen elsewhere. But this isn’t the first time Manchester has been on the receiving end of a terrorist attack. In 1996 the IRA exploded a truck bomb in Manchester city centre. Unlike the US pre-9/11, Britain is use to living with terrorism. Even recently, watching with horror the news of the Westminster attacks in March of this year, it still felt distant and disconnected from my everyday existence. After Monday’s attack here in this city, that’s no longer the case. It’s hard to ignore or look away when children are targeted on your very doorstep. It challenges your basic sense of security, something I had taken for granted. I am lucky enough to live in a country where this is thankfully the exception not the norm. With everything that’s taken place in my own city I couldn’t help but wonder what it must be like for those who experience this on an almost daily basis.
Fortunately, I was nowhere near the centre of Manchester when the bomb went off. I cannot imagine what it must have been like for the parents and children inside the Arena or those waiting at home for their loved ones to return.
I know the MEN Arena well having been to a few concerts there so for me personally this makes Monday’s attack all the more uncomfortable. During the brief time that I’ve been living here in Manchester, I can unequivocally say that Mancunians pull together during difficult times and this is no different. One only need listen to the local radio station to hear small acts of kindness and generosity taking place, taxi drivers and motorists in the area offering free rides home, people flocking to blood banks to donate and local restaurants and cafes offering food. Mancunians are resilient people, they have to be because the weather’s so bloody terrible. But it’s at times like this you witness the good in people, something you can forget when you’re going about your daily life. Events such as this can draw people together and my hope is that people remember that this was the work of an individual or small group of individuals and that it isn’t representative of an entire community or religion. Already Muslim leaders are reporting a rise in hate crime and this saddens me. Didsbury mosque where the bomber worshipped was attacked yesterday in retaliation, the Guardian newspaper is reporting.
Instead of turning on one another we should be supporting those that were affected by the attack. The word ‘senseless’ is usually thrown around at times like this. It is hard to make sense of why someone would purposely target children enjoying a concert but from a terrorism point of view, it does make sense. After all, the aim is to cause as much fear and terror and it has certainly done that. What is more terrifying than the murder of innocent children? Whilst the Westminster attack was an attempt to shake the foundations of our government and democracy, this bombing was intended to make people fearful of enjoying public spaces.
It is perhaps also no coincidence that this attack took place in Manchester, the new home of the BBC. This ensured that the bombing received maximum coverage. The news presenters themselves talked about how they had taken their own children to the MEN and appeared visibly shaken. This was real terror at work and spreading before our eyes.
Where do we go from here? Should we now be in constant fear of entering public spaces or enjoying this beautiful city? The best thing we can do, I believe, is to remember the dead and the injured of Monday’s attack but not allow it to disrupt our way of live or to cause us to turn on one another. My hope is that the city continues to pull together and support one another and not forget that we live in one of the most beautiful, cultural, multi-culturally rich cities in the UK.