On this day in 1996, around 9.20 in the morning, a 3,330 lbs device was detonated in the heart of Manchester, the biggest bomb explosion in Britain since the Second World War.
While it devastated the city centre and injured 200, with an estimated 75,000 people present at the time it was both incredible and a miracle that nobody was killed. That was down to the bravery and rapid response of the emergency services, shop management teams and security guards who, acting on a coded warning from the IRA, had just an hour to evacuate everyone while stopping all transport heading into the city.
The last shoppers and staff were still running for their lives when the bomb went off.
I was working that morning on the outskirts of the centre, and in those days before mobile phones or internet, had no idea of the drama unfolding. I remember hearing the explosion and all conversation suddenly ceasing as we all looked at each other before heading to the windows to see the pall of smoke rising above the familiar landscape. Everyone of us knew people working in or visiting our city centre that morning, and in our silence were turning unspeakable fears around in our heads.
It wasn’t the first time, and God knows we now know it wasn’t to be the last, that our home city would suffer this way. But it could have been worse, much worse, the death toll could have been horrific.
And Manchester did what Manchester always does-it came back. It rebuilt. It regenerated.
Despite all of that devastation, the Phoenix of the modern Manchester that we know today arose from the ashes of that morning.
And, as a reminder to me whenever I see it, nothing stands more as a symbol of Mancunian strength, of Mancunian resilience, than that surviving red post box that can still be seen there today.