The North West Unites: Reflections 24 hours after the Manchester Arena Attack

By Kate Reilly James

I think it’s safe to say we’re all in a state of shock after the terrifying images and details have emerged from the Ariana Grande gig at Manchester Arena last night.

As a media platform that truly loves all things music, whether its local bands starting out in the Liverpool clubs, bars and festivals or international stars bringing huge arena gigs to our amazing city, we shout loud and proud about tour dates months in advance and tickets routinely sell out in minutes.

Loyal Ariana fans bought their tickets, saved up or borrowed from the bank of mum and dad, maybe they got tickets for Christmas and have waited patiently for months to get glammed up to head to Manchester Arena to see their idol on Monday night.

Families and groups of mates from across the country came together, bought their official merchandise, updated their Snap-chat stories and prepared for an unforgettable night, belting out tunes and matching Ariana, note for note.

Never once did any of us expect that some of those fans wouldn’t come home. Not once did any of us believe that anyone could be so callous, so evil, that they would target a gig, packed primarily with young girls, and not once did any of us expect to have the events of last night etched on our minds for the rest of our lives, for all the wrong reasons.

The last 24 hours have been a mix of shock, confusion and fear as more details come to light about the horrific attack at Manchester Arena.

I’m a mum of three, one of which is an 11 year-old pop-mad Ariana fan. I watched the events unfold on Sky News last night, constantly switching between channels for updates, worried about a number of friends and their daughters who were at the gig. I also went upstairs routinely to kiss my sleeping little ones, not daring to imagine the panicked state of those unable to contact their children, friends and family at the arena.

Our Echo Arena’s flags at half mast today

The scenes of thousands of fans fleeing to safety, almost crushing each other in an attempt to get out of the arena, quickly followed by images of the walking wounded and conflicting reports of what had caused the explosion, sent social media into a panicked frenzy as we all clamoured for information and tried to make sense of what was happening. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram was awash with the innocent faces of those without phone signal or battery and unaccounted for as the police moved in to secure a reported 3 mile cordon.

More details emerged as Greater Manchester Police and Ambulance services raced to the scene and the first eye witness footage was shown. News spread quickly and many famous faces added their messages of support on social media as the news and horrific images spread around the world. Bruno Mars, James Corden, Katy Perry, Harry Styles and Taylor Swift all sent their love and condolences to the victims and their families, and Ariana Grande is said to be ‘broken’ by the attack.

What we know today is that this was a targeted act of terrorism, carried out by a coward. Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable, Ian Hopkins released the following statement: “This has been the most horrific incident we have had to face in Greater Manchester and one that we all hoped we would never see.

“Families and many young people were out to enjoy a concert at the Manchester Arena and have lost their lives. Our thoughts are with those 22 victims that we now know have died, the 59 people who have been injured and their loved ones. We continue to do all we can to support them. They are being treated at eight hospitals across Greater Manchester.”

The North West Unites

Phenomenal acts of kindness and solidarity swamped social media as displaced children were grouped together in Manchester hotels for safety, local residents offered beds for the night, cups of tea and lifts home. Taxi drivers turned off the meters and ferried fans to safety while scores of Liverpool, Cheshire and Lancashire Twitter users offered lifts to and from the city to help families reunite with loved ones.

Hundreds have attended blood banks in Manchester to ensure there are enough resources to treat those who need it most. Members of the homeless community, by-standers and first responders leaped into action to help fans who spilled out onto the Manchester Streets not knowing where to run for safety.

The Manchester Arena, Britain’s biggest indoor arena plays host to hundreds of big name music concerts, sporting and family events and comedy every year and the one-off Ariana Grande gig date was a sell out some weeks ago. The Manchester Arena and Victoria train station complex is a vast, bustling space usually filled with an excited buzz as fans gather to see their favourite icons. Following the senseless act of terrorism, American songstress, Ariana and her management team are rumoured to have suspended the rest of her European tour, indefinitely, although no official announcement has yet been made.

In our own city, thousands of fans attended the Echo Arena for the first of two Take That, Wonderland Tour dates, the second of which has now been postponed. The band and promoters issued the following statement in the wake of the atrocity: “Out of respect to all of the people and their families that were affected by the horrific incident last night at The Manchester Arena, we have decided to postpone our show tonight in Liverpool. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all.”

It’s been a sad day. The scenes and sounds of terrified children and teens will remain raw for a long time to come. The atmosphere in our own office, on the school run and in the coffee shops and supermarkets around the country, has been subdued. We’ve all jumped at the tone of each breaking news development and shook our heads in disbelief as some of the young victims are named in the press. Walking around the city, all we’ve heard and talked about is the senseless loss of young lives.

24 hours later there are parents and families still searching for their children and loved ones. Our emergency services continue to work around the clock to reunite families, treat the injured and investigate just how this horrific attack took place. This should never have happened and our hearts go out to all those affected by this evil act of terrorism that has shattered so many lives.

An emergency number is available for those who are concerned about loved ones or anyone who may have been in the area – 0161 856 9400. Share your messages of support on social media using the hashtag #StandTogether

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