Around the time I went to bed the bomb went off.
I was totally unaware of what had happened until around 3.00am, when my wife woke me. Friends from around the country, indeed the world, had messaged us. Then, bleary eyed, we tried to process just what had happened.
There was footage of the panic; people searching for lost children; a distressed woman rang our local radio station with a horrific account of what she had witnessed; friends of ours announced that they were safe.
The friend of my little girl was at the concert with her family. There were other people attending that we know. My daughter herself was at a concert in that same venue just a couple of weeks ago. The arena can be accessed through the train station which I have been commuting from. Not so long ago I attended the Young Voices competition as a staff member with my children’s school choir. 8,000 children were present that day. Suddenly the horror that regularly unfolds throughout the world was on our doorstep.
After the recent attack at Westminster I said to my wife that it was only a matter of time before our city was hit. Whenever you are in a crowded place of course it crosses your mind. Football matches, shopping centres, and like last night-music concerts. But we have to continue.
This threat isn’t going away any time soon. We have to all stand firm against it. Of course by ‘we’ I mean all of us, everywhere. But being rooted in a place gives you a sense of belonging. This is my city. These are my people. I am proud of my fellow Mancunians who went to the aid of the injured and dying, the taxi and bus drivers who were ferrying people from the centre for free, the hotels who were taking in children who had been separated from their parents, people offering beds for the night, and more and more and more.
Manchester is no stranger to such atrocities. There was the IRA bomb of 1996 which utterly devastated the town centre. The Manchester we know today rose from the ashes of that day. But back then everybody had been evacuated, miraculously nobody was killed. Last night it was people targeted. It was children. When we say we will go on, when we say we will stand firm, it is more than rhetoric. More than posting a hashtag. But when the people who commit such acts are targeting events that are packed with thousands of children, just what are we to do?
That is for another day.
My prayers go out to those who lost their lives last night in my beautiful city.