“Don’t feel hate, hate breeds hate”
“Carry on as normal, don’t let them win”
“Anger won’t solve anything”
These are 3 statements I’ve read time and time again over the last 36 hours.
In fact, the short list I’ve articulated is non-exhaustive.
I get it.
I get what people are saying but fuck me, don’t tell me how to feel.
Don’t tell me not to feel anger. Because I do.
Don’t tell me not to hate. Because I do.
I know life goes on. I know the world still turns but I’m human. I feel.
A couple of months ago I wrote a blog post entitled “Conditioned”. Here I wrote about how I was beginning to lose sensitivity to the seemingly endless stream of bad news. I felt like nothing could shock me anymore. I almost felt like I’d heard it all.
But Jesus Christ I hadn’t. There was still something that could shock me to my inner core.
Waking up to the news of a terrorist attack in Manchester on Tuesday morning was obviously unexpected.
I stumbled into my bathroom to begin the arduous task of getting ready for work. My routine usually begins with my first morning wee (I know, TMI), having a scroll through my various social media accounts then jumping in the shower to think about all I have to do that day whilst washing my hair.
I see an article headline on Facebook. It reads “Ariana Grande terrorist attack in Manchester”.
Manchester, England? Our Manchester?
That can’t be right.
A quick look on Twitter confirms my fears. Every single trending topic tells me that something devastating has happened in Manchester.
A pop concert. The MEN arena, where pop star Ariana Grande had taken her Dangerous Woman tour.
19 feared dead. Children amongst the fatalities.
I couldn’t believe what I was reading.
It was like my brain couldn’t absorb quick enough, the words that my eyes were trying to read.
It’s a totally new strain of evil we’re dealing with now isn’t it. Killing and maiming innocent children venturing out to a pop concert. Likely, the first one some of them have ever been to.
They’ll be feeling anticipation and excitement. Their parents feeling trepidation but they know they have to let their kids go and enjoy themselves.
When the news begins to roll in regarding the victims of this reprehensible attack it’s as much as I can take reading the endless articles that are published on social media.
Ariana Grande superfan; Georgina Callender; 18. Georgina had posted on Twitter expressing her excitement for once again seeing her idol in concert.
Saffie – Rose Roussos; 8. EIGHT YEARS OLD. Practically still a baby.
Alison Howes and Lisa Lees; 45 and 47 respectively. Waiting to pick their children up from the concert.
John Atkinson; 26. A competitive dancer, described as “a happy and gentle person”
Olivia Campbell; 15. Her whole life ahead of her. I watched her Mother being interviewed on GMB in the hours after the attack; yet to hear from her little girl. She looked broken.
Kelly Brewster; 32. Dead after shielding her young niece from the blast. A selfless hero.
Marcin and Angelica Klis; 42 and 40. They leave behind 2 daughters who they had travelled to the MEN to collect from the concert.
Martyn Hett; 29. A popular, vibrant guy who appeared to have an incredible sense of humour.
Nell Jones; 14. Barely a teenager. Her young friends now having to process the tragic fact that they’ll never see their classmate again.
All of these people had gone to the gig for fun. They were expecting to have a good time. Today their families have to deal with their overwhelming grief. Their lives changed forever.
I don’t want to know the name of the attacker. I don’t give a damn shit how old he is.
I care about the people I have listed above. Their lives. Their families.
I care about the people of Manchester who are united in grief. Confused. Angry. In pain.
I care about the people who are lying in a hospital; some with life threatening and life changing injuries. Again, their lives affected forever.
I care about the heroes and heroines I’ve heard about over the last 36 hours or so. The homeless guy who was sleeping rough at the arena and did all he could to help others in their desperate time of need.
Watching a video of his account yesterday made the tears fall. I only wrote on Monday how I never cry. It’s a weird self-defence mechanism I think. But no stupid self-defence mechanism could stop me from crying, whilst watching this incredible guy talk about what he’d seen and what he’d heard.
I couldn’t concentrate yesterday. Every time I tried to my mind went to Manchester. To the absolute devastation so many people were experiencing. Everything I was trying to achieve felt so unimportant.
Yesterday morning, countless people on Twitter were sharing lists of missing people in the desperate hope of finding them alive.
Today, I recognise those same names as being the names of the confirmed dead.
Terrorism is a word used so frequently these days. And in a year where we’ve seen two terrorist attacks in our country in less than six months, it’s a frightening time. Unprecedented even.
Be aware. Be vigilant. But don’t stop living your life. This is what we’re told by politicians, journalists and public figures. And I think we’ll all take heed of this advice. But, I think all of us will always remember May 23rd 2017. In the same way we remember July 7th 2005 and September 11th 2001.
They are dates that stick in our minds. For all the wrong reasons.
My thoughts are with the families of those who have lost a loved one. Those people who have lost friends. And the people who have been affected by this heinous act of terrorism.