It has been almost one year since the terror attack at Manchester arena on May 22, 2017, where twenty-two concert-goers were killed and more than 519 injured in the blast. The attack was described as the deadliest attack on British soil since the London 7/7 bombings, however, the victims and community stood united. With it nearing a year, I took it upon myself to ask a few of those affected several questions about their experience, and where they are now. For respect and per request, no names will be mentioned.
Where were you when the bomb went off?
A: I was at home.
B: My two friends and I were still at our seats on the left hand side from where the bomb went off. We hadn’t moved yet as the queue to get out was long. We happily stayed in our seats singing along to a Michael Jackson song.
C: We were the auditorium of the arena in our seats just about to leave as the bomb went off.
Did you realise what had happened?
A: I got a text straight away from a few friends there and turned on the news.
B: A part of me says no. But I feel that was me trying to convince myself that the situation I was in wasn’t real. After hearing the bang, there was just an instant moment of dread– you just knew that whatever that noise was, it wasn’t good. After hearing it I feel like time froze for a moment before the chaos began, and honestly I don’t even know how to explain the feeling of being in a situation like this. I remember parents panicking and children crying. There was this one woman nearby, saying ‘oh it was just a balloon popping’ or ‘it could’ve been a speaker malfunction.’ People listened despite the fact you could tell she didn’t fully believe her own words. Everyone was terrified, so I think deep down we knew we were in danger.
C: At first I didn’t know what was happening though as people started to scream and run I began to realize what had happened.
How did the attack affect you?
A: I lost someone in the attack.
B: I feel like it’s impacted me a lot. I still think about what happened more than I actually realize sometimes. It’s just a never ending cycle of what-ifs, and even though there’s nothing I could have done to prevent it, it still hurts to think about. You never think you’ll end up in situations like these, they always seem unreal. The full reality of the situation didn’t me until I had arrived home and turned on the news. I was running on adrenaline at the and when it disappeared, that’s when I broke down. The morning after was the worst. I found out that a girl I had known lost her life due to the attack. I had seen her at the concert and messaged her to see if she got out okay, I didn’t get a reply. I didn’t leave my room. You can’t just forget and get over something like this.
C: I struggled to go out the house as I didn’t want to leave and I found it difficult to speak to people as I just wanted to be left alone.
Have you been to Manchester since?
A: Nope not yet.
B: I went back to Manchester for the One Love concert, but I think that’s the only time since. I felt like I needed to attend the concert despite being nervous about it all.
C: I’ve been back to other areas of Manchester though I’ve not been back to the central area since the attack.
Did the attack change your perspective on anything?
A: I’ve witnessed another attack which I think in a way prepared me for this, so I knew roughly what was to come.
B: I feel like it did. You realize that life really is short. It’s unpredictable and most of the time things that happen are out of your control. I’ve learned that you can’t let the fear of doing things dictate your life all the time. I cherish things more now.
C: The attack made me realize how terrorism is affecting the whole world, as I never believed I would ever be apart of a terrorist attack. It made me realize that no matter where you are in the world, you are never safe from people like that. The attack has helped me understand the seriousness of the problem of terrorism.
How did you cope with your trauma?
A: I still am coping with the loss. It’s something that I don’t think I’ll ever be over.
B: I’m not too sure. I liked to be left alone with my thoughts. It probably wasn’t the best choice to do this since it wasn’t like I was alone in the situation. Both family and friends did help me though, they took me out to get my mind of things. That’s all I could really ask for.
C: It’s difficult to say how I coped with the aftermath of the attack as it’s such a blur. Thinking back at it–talking to people about it and letting go of my emotions, and crying just seemed to help. Most importantly I think it was just time that helped me cope.
If you could say something to the attacker, what would it be?
A: No idea.
C: I would want the attacker to realize how much heartbreak and pain they had caused to so many innocent people, young children and families of those involved in the attack, as well as those who lost someone. The truth of knowing that people were happy that night at a concert which was supposed to be a safe and happy place. I would want them to know how sickening they are to ever do something like they did.
May the twenty-two people rest in peace. You will never be forgotten.
Photo credit: Dave Hogan