It is May 23rd, just gone midday, as I write this. Yesterday was such a beautiful day – London reached 24 degrees, it was like the beginning of summer – and at twilight, the sky was glowing pink. It flooded my room, I swear. And as it faded into darkness, I thought of that old saying, “Red sky at night, sailors’ delight. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning” – tomorrow will be a beautiful day…
Then the news hit, of the terror bombing at the Ariana Grande show in Manchester – tens of thousands of people in one place. All unsuspecting, from across the country, gathered together for one big party.
How could this happen?
Speculation is rife over who’s to blame. Fingers are already being pointed, in all the directions you would expect – it’s only natural, we’re all so scared. Personally, I’d rather not become embroiled in accusations. When it comes down to something like this, there’s only love and fear, and I’d rather find comfort in everybody finding a way out together, than by living in fear and questioning every face down the street.
So far, 22 have been confirmed dead and 59 injured, with several still missing.
It’s difficult when something like this happens; it’s difficult to comprehend that it’s real. Sometimes it’s difficult to relate, especially when it’s so far away. To read the figures is chilling, and you try to imagine how it would be for the families and friends of those lost, yet somehow you can never quite comprehend. But when people you know are involved, it becomes very real. And your thoughts flash back to the Snapchat from a few hours ago, of your best friend and her 12-year-old sister, in their seats at Manchester Arena. A Christmas present – I remember how excited her sister had been when she opened the tickets…
They were both fine (well, as far as one can be – ‘fine’…), but in the moments between sending that first text and waiting for a response, it seemed as though a lifetime had passed. Her sister was crying – it happened in the foyer right behind their seats. They were so lucky. Her boyfriend was waiting in his car by the arena, waiting to drive them home once it was over. The car shook. He was so lucky.
The last message she sent to me last night read, “I feel sick,” and this morning I woke with the same feeling. It’s easy to say that we have to carry on, but a lingering fear makes it so hard sometimes. When everyone’s talking about it, and you’re reading accounts from those who were there over and over, it’s so easy to let it consume you.
This was not an uncalculated attack. It was not an attack on the people of Manchester. It was an attack on music, and art, and the things that bring people together. Concerts and shows and movie theatres are one of the few spaces where people can come together with one united purpose. It doesn’t matter your background, race, gender or sexuality – everyone is united with their love for whoever is performing. And we have to keep hold of that.
These people, whoever they may be, want to spread fear and divide us, and although for a second they sent a wave of fear around the world, it’s so reassuring to see the world standing together today. Throughout Manchester, people are opening up their homes to those stranded and offering hospitality (#RoomForManchester). Businesses are providing food and drink to emergency services, and last night taxi companies were offering free rides for those who had been affected by train cancellations.
Today is not the day any of us had hoped for, but we can’t let go of hope. Today the sky is protected in a veil of clouds and the air is still. It’s not like summer any more, it’s just still, and our thoughts are with those who were lost. All the children – one girl was just eight years old – with so much life to live – gone… It’s such a tragedy, we cannot forget.
But as the days go by, and time passes, we have to stay united against the forces that want to divide us. And remember: this is not about religion – it’s about terror. Don’t let them win. Keep going out. Keep playing music. Love one another. Hold those who matter close.
Don’t let fear take over.