On this day in 2017, terror came to Manchester in the most grotesque and terrible way imaginable, with children and young adults targeted by a suicide bomber as they left Manchester Arena at the end of an Ariana Grande concert. Britain and our European neighbours have been the victims of terrorist attacks on numerous occasions in recent years and in some cases the number of casualties far exceeded the 22 killed by Salman Abedi that night, but what sets this act apart in our minds is the deliberate choice of young victims. Ten of the dead were under the age of twenty; the youngest was eight years old. Out of 139 hospitalised or treated at the scene in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, 79 were children. In the year since the attack, television documentaries have highlighted the mental as well as physical impact of the attack. Some two hundred people were treated for various injuries; six hundred others have been tormented by post-traumatic stress disorders, with many receiving treatment and counselling to this day as they try to rebuild their lives.
Once the scale of the horror became clear, Manchester responded magnificently, with people from all walks of life helping in any way they could. While the majority of victims were from the North West, concert-goers from all over the UK were there that night and families as far afield as Tyneside and the Hebrides would bury young victims in the days that followed. Mancunians took them all into their hearts. We all remember the vigil that took place the following evening in Albert Square – an act of defiance as well as remembrance – and we all remember the soaring words of poet Tony Walsh’s ‘This is the Place’. We all remember the astonishing carpet of floral tributes in St Ann’s Square. Some 200 languages are spoken in cosmopolitan Manchester, a city of mosques, temples, gurdwaras, synagogues and churches. All nationalities, colours and creeds were represented in that outpouring of grief, solidarity and sympathy.
On June 4th Ariana Grande, along with other famous artists, hosted the One Love Manchester benefit concert at Old Trafford Cricket Ground, a remarkable and hugely emotional event which, along with the associated Red Cross fund, raised £10 million for victims of the attack.
Today, thousands mark the first anniversary of the Arena bombing with a service at Manchester Cathedral and a nationally observed minute of silence at 2.30pm. It was a love of music that took the victims of the attack to the Arena on May 22nd last year and that love of of music continues as a central theme on Manchester, a year later. More than 3,000 singers from local choirs will join forces at the Manchester Together – With One Voice event in Albert Square in the evening. Among them will be the Manchester Survivors Choir, which comprises parents and children who were all at the Arena that night. Many of them were badly injured, physically or psychologically or both.
At 10.31 pm bells will ring out across the city centre to mark the moment the attack took place, twelve months ago.