This morning the UK wakes up to another terrorist incident. Last night a suicide bomber detonated his device at the entrance of Manchester’s Victoria Railway Station, which affected people leaving a concert by the US pop star Ariana Grande at the nearby Manchester Arena. According to Greater Manchester Police 22 people, including children, have been killed with a total of 59 people also being injured, although it is possible that this number will rise in the coming hours. In the past I have attempted to write these pieces from a distance so that we can let cool heads prevail, and I shall endeavour to do so here. However, I would be remiss to omit that whilst I am not a Mancunian by birth, Manchester is now my city and as such this may prove difficult.
The blast occurred at 22:35 BST on Monday. Within minutes around 60 ambulances and countless other emergency service personnel descended on the Arena to assist the wounded. Those injured are currently being treated in six hospitals across the city. The police have also stated that at 01:32 BST on Tuesday morning, explosive experts carried out a controlled explosion of a suspicious looking package in the nearby gardens of Manchester Cathedral. It later transpired that the package was only some clothes that had been left behind.
In response to the attack Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said that this was the “most horrific incident” Greater Manchester had ever faced, and that the ensuing investigation would seek to ascertain whether the perpetrator was part of a network or not. Hopkins is right about the scale of the attack. The last terror attack to hit Manchester was the 1996 bombing of Corporation Street by the Provisional IRA, which despite injuring over 200 people left nobody fatally wounded.
What is important now is the response and the initial aftermath illustrates why Manchester is such a fantastic city. Local residents volunteered their cars for free transport and some went as far as offering those at the concert a free place to sleep for the evening if they had been stranded by train cancellations. Taxi companies across Manchester also offered free journeys so that concert goers could be reunited with their loved ones with ease.
Furthermore, the NHS blood donation service has been overwhelmed by calls of people wishing to help those in need. As a blood donor myself I have first hand experience of this branch of the NHS and I can personally testify that I have never heard the call centres so busy as they were this morning. But because I am a blood donor I would still like to appeal to people to keep trying. The NHS relies on blood donations in order to conduct all major operations and so, wherever you live in the country, please keep trying because there a people who desperately need our help.
In terms of the political reactions, Prime Minister Theresa May and Home Secretary Amber Rudd have both come out decrying the action, as indeed as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott. Theresa May shall chair a COBRA meeting later in the day to see how best to respond. Following the attack all political parties have agreed to suspend campaigning for the day in order for people to be with their loved ones and out of respect for those who died.
The people of Greater Manchester are one of the tightest-knit communities that I have ever come across. Although there are friendly rivalries between the people of this great city, in times like this it is made abundantly clear that above all of these small sporting or regional rivalries is a common bond that unites us all. As Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said on the steps of the Town Hall this morning: “we’ll pull together…that’s who we are, that’s what we’ll do”. Truer words have not been spoken.
Whatever the motives of this terrorist were, he wanted to achieve chaos. He wanted to disrupt people’s lives and instill fear in the hearts of the people of this great city. So not only will we unite and refuse to let his hatred seep into our city’s collective consciousness, we will carry on as normal because he wanted to change the way we act. I’m going to get on the 142 bus today, just as I do almost everyday, because we are not going to change our behavior because someone wanted to threaten our city. The bomb is only the catalyst for the terrorists’ real weapon: fear. How do we beat them? Don’t be scared, don’t embrace divisiveness, and go about your daily life. Remember those who have died, help those who are injured, but stay the course and open yourself up to people as that would be the best ‘fuck off’ imaginable.