This, shared by the police force from my home town:
It was announced that today the country would observe a minute’s silence to honour those killed on Monday. Where else could I go to honour this but Manchester? Despite the unprecedented step of the army being deployed to assist the police throughout the country and the government warning that another attack was imminent, avoiding this crowd was never an option.
My fellow Mancunians came good again: what a fitting and emotional morning it was. There were tears amongst the defiance, balloons filling the clear blue skies. And the fantastic moment when the crowd burst into a spontaneous rendition of Don’t Look Back In Anger by Manchester band Oasis, followed by thunderous self-congratulatory applause.
How ironic that an action designed to cause division has created a unity I have never witnessed before.
Here are some photographs of the day.
Today has been a difficult day.
-The girls from my daughter’s class crying this morning in the playground in fear for a classmate who attended the concert. (She did not come into school but she was safe.)
-The tales related personally to us by people who were there, as well as someone who treated the injured in hospital.
-The people still on edge in Manchester:the shopping centre evacuated; people fleeing along the high street in panic; rumours spreading, men arrested.
-The distraught woman begging on television for news of her (still) missing daughter.
-The story of the homeless man, normally passed by and ignored on the street, who ran to help the injured, cradling a dying woman in his arms, comforting a young girl who had lost her legs, pulling nails from the faces of children.
-The victims beginning to be named, the ages, the photographs.
People gathering together in their thousands in the city centre in a show of defiance and unity. And on the estate where I live, we joined together in a local chapel, finding solace and comfort in community.
We will see what tomorrow brings.
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.
Sometimes I feel a longing for the coast. Or perhaps somewhere more rural, away from the built up concrete confines of my city. This occasionally intensifies into a desire to move to such a place permanently. These are idealistic episodes and don’t normally last too long, for roots are important to me.
But even when traveling through less scenic routes I get curious about other places. It is easy to get superficial, inadequate views of the towns that we pass through, and in our ideals wonder if they could hold an appeal.
Recently I was on a train heading to Manchester from Leeds. Passing through the train stations the landscape began to open out. There was space between the fixed points of these two urban sprawls. The sky, for once blue, lifted the spirits, and there were jackdaws—always jackdaws, scattered upon the fields. These birds have become something of a personal totem to me, and these familiar friends accompanied me along the way.
We rolled into Hebden Bridge. This place always looks charming, though I have yet to explore it. There was only a handful of people waiting to board the train here. They looked like walkers ( hikers, I mean, not zombies). They got on board and we moved on.
The next station on our linear amble was the market town of Todmorden. I have wondered about this place also. From my limited views it looks like a nice place to live, but as I said earlier, superficial views are inadequate to get a true feel for a place.
Then, from my window I saw this sign, set back upon a hill:
The letters stood there like a miniature version of the famous Hollywood sign. I didn’t know why it was there, but it felt refreshing to be greeted by a (literal) sign of positivity. I searched on Google and found a news reference to it. It seems that some of the town residents were erecting these signs to counter the news that hate crimes throughout the country were on the rise. What a great idea, providing a bit of balance by nailing their colours to their provincial masts.
What noble endeavours, what admirable gestures. Who wouldn’t want to settle in a town that salts its perimeters with the grains of compassion?