We're all behind Manchester
When the phone rang at 5am, I feared the worst. What I was told was beyond my comprehension.
It was all sketchy but the details I was given by the concerned family member was that there had been an attack on the Manchester Arena and people had been killed and injured.
My connection is a personal one: I was born in Greater Manchester and lived and worked in and around the city for 25 years – it is my city.
Like millions of others, I have watched some of the best names in music and comedy at the Arena and had been due to make another visit on Friday.
I was stunned by what I was told, not just because of my emotional attachment to Manchester, but because of the wickedly cruel nature of the latest atrocity to afflict these islands.
Not a single person who paid to watch Ariana Grande on Monday night will have visited Manchester with any suspicion that they would have anything but a great time. But these cowardly criminals prey on unsuspecting members of the public, they always have. What made it so dreadful is that this was a concert largely attended by teenagers.
There aren’t any words for us to say or write down which can console those who were personally affected by the events of May 22, a date which will surely be added to a list of those which will live painfully in the memory.
There was a weary familiarity to the public’s response to the attack, much of which involved many taking to social media to state their outrage and grief.
But it was the response in Manchester itself which suprised me the least: cabbies picking up people for free on the night; hotels providing shelter to those stranded in the city and some residents offering up their beds to whoever needed them.
That is the Manchester I know. It is a city which has coped with much over the years, including an IRA bomb, but this will be its biggest test in living memory. There will be tears shed for all of the victims but the city, and the wider North West region, will put a huge arm of comfort around them. We can be sure of that. Manchester also knows that an entire nation is right behind it.