On the 22nd of May 2017, I was unlucky enough to be in Manchester Arena when the terrorist attack took place. I was attending the Ariana Grande ‘Dangerous Woman’ Tour when, at the end of the gig, a huge explosion shook the floor and shook our entire city.
I never thought that I would ever have to write those words. I never thought that I would ever be involved in such an atrocity in my lifetime. But I was. I was amongst 14,000 others. 22 of these 14,000 people, mainly children, didn’t manage to make it out of the arena alive. Those people’s lives were ripped away so brutally in the same arena that I was sat in. You hear about these things on the news, but you never think that they will happen so physically close to you. I never imagined when entering the arena that 22 lives would be ended right in front of me. The thought of this still makes me feel physically sick. It made me question myself about the type of world that we live in.
I didn’t sleep for two days straight after the attack. I physically couldn’t. The memories of the aftermath of the attack were fresh on my mind and wouldn’t let me rest. Unfortunately for me, normality had to resume the next day. I had to stay composed when attending work, finishing my final exams at university, seeing family; I had to carry on as if it hadn’t phased me. I mean, what did I have to complain about? I was still walking after surviving a terrorist bomb. I should be pleased, shouldn’t I? I pushed it out of my mind and carried on; and now I know that this wasn’t the way to go about it.
I was avoiding all news reports on the incident because I didn’t want to have to think about it anymore. I would turn over radio stations in the car whenever the attack was mentioned. I would avoid the magazine and newspapers in supermarkets that displayed images of the bomber and the victim’s faces. I was scared that if I acknowledged it and let it into my thoughts that it would break me down. I had done so well at putting on a brave face for my family and friends that I didn’t want that facade to come tumbling down.
But behind closed doors and in my quietest moments throughout the days after the attack, I would catch myself thinking about the ‘what if’s’. What if I was sat in another seat at the arena, would I be one of the 22 people dead? What if the bomber detonated the bomb at another exit and It had killed me too? What if the bomber detonated the bomb in the arena instead of the foyer? Would more people have been injured? Would I still be here? I was slowly being broken down.
These thoughts kept me awake at night. I felt ill with grief and guilty that I had walked away from the attack unscathed while others so much younger than myself lay in a mortuary. Why me? Why wasn’t I taken that night instead of young, innocent children? Why must such suffering occur to people and children in a room centred around love and admiration? If there is a god, then why would they let so much suffering occur to the embodiment’s of innocence? I couldn’t deal with this. I just couldn’t.
Because I hadn’t dealt with my emotions towards the attack appropriately, they mentally started to eat me alive. Panic, anxiety, and fear begin interfering with my daily routine. Any fear of anxiety that I felt towards something was amplified by x1000 and I struggled to deal with situations normally. My energy to carry on was running out and I was struggling to move forward.
But on the 4th June 2017, something happened that shook the world harder than the terrorist attack on the night of the concert. Ariana Grande performed her ‘One Love Manchester’ benefit concert in aid of the 22 victims that lost their lives and the 100 more that were injured on the night of the attack. Her, amongst many other well-known artists, performed to the world spreading the message of strength, unity, and love.
I was fortunate enough to attend this concert for free. Ariana Grande ensured that tickets were made free for the survivors of her original concert at the Manchester Arena. I must admit, I was sceptical about attending this concert so soon after the attack. The paranoia and fear set in. Manchester Old Trafford Cricket Ground is a much larger venue than Manchester Arena, this would be a prime opportunity for another terrorist attack, wouldn’t it? What if attending this concert puts more people in danger than before?
But then it dawned on me after a conversation with a close friend: Isn’t that what terrorists want us to do? They want us to live in fear of them. They want us to question ourselves and our safety, steering clear from large scale events in an attempt to suppress and control our love for one another. I wasn’t going to let them have ownership over me or my emotions, so I got my ticket and I went to the show. And I’m so so glad that many others had the same mindset as me.
“I’m bowing because despite all of the things that have been going on in this place, I don’t feel or smell or hear or see any fear in this building”
It was true. Nobody was scared. Everybody in the venue was mentally holding one another’s hand. At one point, when Katy Perry was on, we were all physically holding hands too!
I was so blessed to have been in that venue with the rest of Manchester. I was blessed to be a part of that act of unity and strength after such a difficult time. The concert was exactly what we all needed, not just Manchester, but the world. Like I said, the bombing may have shook the world, but this concert shook the world harder. It is true what they say, love always wins. And love has won within me, too.
I came away from the concert feeling at peace. The concert helped to restored my faith about the people in my town and people all over the globe. Its helped me to realise that although there are monsters hidden beneath the shadows, there are a million more angels to drown their wickedness out. Ariana Grande an her friends have demonstrated that. To me, the concert is the closing of a door, a door of grief, of fear, and of sorrow. But you know what they say about closing doors, right?
Ariana Grande has globally helped to open the door towards faith, love, unity, compassion, and strength in communities all over the world. Her own strength and bravery throughout this difficult time has set such a profound example for generations to come. The ‘One Love’ concert will without a doubt go down in history as one of the greatest concerts to date. Not just because of the acts involved, but because of the motive and the message it promoted. And for that, I have so much more respect and admiration for her.
With love always,
If you have been affected by the events this past week and want to help out, I’ll leave links below to the websites where you can donate to the ‘We Love Manchester Emergency Fund’. The concert alone has helped to raise over £2million for the British Red Cross! That’s an unbelievable sum of money! Lets keep the donations rolling in for such a good cause.
Links For Donations To The ‘We Love Manchester Emergency Fund’
https://uk.onelovemanchestershop.com/ (You can buy One Love merchandise here sold at the gig. The net proceeds will be donated to the charity as well)