Saffie Roussos Funeral: Hundreds of mourners expected despite pouring rain
Rain is pouring down as preparations get underway for the funeral of the youngest victim of the Manchester terror attack this afternoon.
Eight year old Saffie Roussos was one of 22 people who were killed when Salman Abedi detonated a home-made bomb at Manchester Arena following an Ariana Grande on May 22.
Hundreds of mourners are expected to attend today's funeral at Manchester Cathedral at 1.45pm, with more standing outside listening to the service through a sound system.
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One of the first to arrive for Saffie's funeral this morning was Mike Swanson, 38, of SOS Computer repair shop in Newsome Street, Leyland.
He is a good friend of Andrew, Saffie's father.
Speaking of how the family Andrew, Saffie's mum Lisa, 48, big sister Ashlee and brother Zander, 10, are doing he said: "They are all coping, they are strong but it's going to be a hard day for them.
"Lisa will have to have further operations but she is out of the danger zone. She gets tired quickly but she will be here today - she helped to arrange it.
"It's been a rollercoaster."
With Mike were his two daughters Lily and Grace, who were both good friends with Saffie.
The Tarleton Community Primary School pupil had been at the Grande concert with Lisa and Ashlee.
While Saffie died of multiple injuries Lisa and Ashlee were hospitalised with serious injuries from the blast.
Leyland trader Adam Neale, who arrived along with Mike and is a friend of Andrew, said: "Leyland has not been the same since.
"I got to know Saffie about two years ago and she was a pretty little face.
"She created a massive impression on me. You would look down at her face over the counter of the shop.
"They have a very tight family unit.
"We are expecting a massive turnout which is what Saffie would have wanted.
"I have not spoken to Andrew since everything happened so I hope they are staying strong. Words are so cheap."
Mourners have been asked to come dressed to the funeral in colourful clothing with a single red rose after Saffie's middle name.
"It's not a nice day - the rain reflects how I feel," said Tony Maunder, who runs a volunteer program with Manchester Cathedral to help get unemployed people into work.
"No parent should have to bury their child. It's just a horrible feeling."
A passerby, Trevor Palmer, agreed: "The weather's made it an even more depressing day."
Saffie was one of the first to be publicly identified in the days after the attack.
Staff at The Mitre Hotel, which faces onto the Cathedral are planning on standing outside to listen to the funeral with the crowds.
Housekeeper Nicola Hallwood, who has a four year old daughter, said: "It's going to be an emotional day today I think.
"Just thinking about what happened makes me go cold.
"It's disguising. The Mitre was closed for about three days after the bomb. When we first came back to work we were wary, there was an eerie atmosphere for a few days.
"Seeing the police with guns afterwards was shocking."
Homeless hero Chris Parker, who helped victims in the immediate aftermath of the bomb, is one of those who has laid flowers outside Manchester Cathedral this morning.
Stephen Cantrill, who works at The Old Wellington pub next to the Cathedral, said: "Obviously everyone still feels very sorrowful."
Manager of the pub, which dates to 1552, Gavin Clark added: "The way that everyone came together afterwards was amazing. The funeral today brings it back, people are remembering what happened."
Labourer Gavin Shirley, who has a two year old daughter himself, said: "It's heartbreaking. It was sad for everyone but the little girl was only eight. She was gorgeous as well.
"But everyone stood together, we don't take intolerance like that in Manchester. What we love is peace."
Leyland coach company Avagroup is transporting 100 people from Leyland to Manchester for free to the funeral.
Four of the victims of the atrocity in Manchester were from Lancashire.
The include Saffie, 18-year-old Georgina Callander from Tarleton, school receptionist Jane Tweddle, 51, from Blackpool and 45-year-old Michelle Kiss, who grew up in Leyland before moving to Blackburn.
Saffie’s funeral is the last of those who died in the terrorist attack and is believed to be one of only two held at Manchester Cathedral.