The United Kingdom has once again fallen victim to a terrorist attack but this time with an even more perverse, horrific tone – that of an attack directed against children. What now?
Disgusting. Sickening. Perverse. Unjust. Horrific.
Such words have come to many across Britain today, as we awoke, expecting another day of tit-for-tat politics in the build-up to the General Election or some other non-news piece about the Royal Family. Instead, Britain awoke to the news that at 10:33pm the previous night, 22nd May, as a concert by Ariana Grande finished at the Manchester Arena ended, a suicide bomber had blown himself up in the foyer and at least 19 people had been killed and scores injured. Currently, as of writing, at approximately 5pm, 23rd May, 22 people have been confirmed as killed with another 59 casualties in hospital, 12 of which are under 16 and some of whom have been confirmed to have sustained life-changing injuries. I became aware of the attack when, as I was about to go to sleep at just before midnight, I checked a BBC alert on my phone which stated that there had been ‘an explosion at a music concert in Manchester’. I think that the knowledge that this was something awful bothered me: I awoke twice again before 7am and since I have been checking the news consistently throughout the day.
This attack, I feel, has stirred me far deeper than the attack on Westminster did and as I believe it has the rest of the country. In a guerrilla war, such as the Cypriot War of Independence, to give an example, whilst targeted assassinations of British soldiers and officials etc. were, from a British perspective, contemptible actions, there was certainly a logic inherent to them – both sides are fighting a war and a British solider, whether attacking you or not, is a threat. Even however within the scope of terrorism, itself a wholly despicable concept due to the cynical manner in which civilians are exploited – this attack was the absolute epitome of moral degradation and barbarism.
The Manchester Bombing explicitly targeted children, families, parents attending a teenage-orientated concert. How could there be more innocent victims? The youngest victim, we believe, was Saffie Roussos, an eight-year old primary school girl from Lancashire. The idea that anyone could justify her death is abhorrent but such is the perverted logic, the moral vacuousness of the scum, and truly I believe the definition is appropriate in the context of this action for the perpetrator, who thought that the blood of Britain’s and Manchester’s innocents would aid them in their struggle.
The people of Manchester have already shown they are not to be broken, not to be swayed by this cruelty.
Even as the terror was unfolding at the Arena, the defiant, indomitable spirit inherent to the British people and even more so to the people of Manchester and the North-West, began to pour forth in a shower of compassion, community and care. The humanity shown in the aftermath was extraordinary and makes me tear up just reading it – to know that for all the suffering last night, the wonderful, beautiful people of my country stood by each other in a touching solidarity. Taxi drivers from the city and even from Merseyside, free of charge, ferried hundreds of concert-goers home or to hospitals. On social media rooms were offered to those who could not get home, due to the Police cordon or the suspension of travel at Victoria Station. Mancunians brought hot drinks and food for the Police and Paramedics at the scene and shops fed the first responders free of charge. NHS staff off-duty rushed to the city’s hospitals to offer their services. Thousands lined the streets today to donate blood, to the point where people were turned away due to the flood of would-be donors. Stuck in my head is the testimony of a homeless man called Chris Parker, begging outside of the foyer at the time of the attack, who rushed in to help the wounded. Inside he tended to a little girl whose legs had been blown off whose wounds he wrapped in a t-shirt and whose mother, he believed, had just been killed and how he cradled a 60-year old woman who had been at the concert with her family, who died in his arms. His bravery and heroics, as those of every man, woman and child who helped someone at this atrocity, must be lauded and commended.
Manchester will survive however. In the UK the North in general, but especially its cities, are renowned for their stoicism, their ability to prevail and get on with it all. This very much was the same in 1996, when a 3,300lb bomb was detonated at the Arndale Shopping Centre, injuring 200 and wrecking the shopping precinct. Manchester soldiered on then and will continue to do so now.
Obviously there will be the slew of questions and investigations, but what, as I said after Westminster, what should be done now is to remember those most innocent of children, their family and friends, who died.
I leave you now, with the words of Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, whose speech very well sums up how Manchester will overcome this tragedy and remember those so mercilessly and meaninglessly murdered: