Yesterday dawned to confusion, fear and grief. Those who hadn’t been up all night woke to the news that something truly awful had taken place in our beloved city. A cowardly attack on children enjoying a concert, innocent lives taken away with malice and brutality. His name will not pass my lips. But what he did shook Manchester to it’s core. For a moment.
As soon as it became clear late Monday night that something terrible had happened, the city sprang into action. The people of Manchester opened their hearts and their homes to total strangers, taxi drivers turned off their meters, and people responded to the fear and pain of the moment by meeting it head on, with a stubbornness and warmth that can only be described as truly Mancunian.
As yesterday dawned and more people woke to the breaking news; confirmed numbers dead and injured, the scale of the tragedy becoming clear, the decision to do whatever you could was instinctive. Matt and Hilary, a young couple who live five minutes from the Arena, told me how they responded. “We had a little cry on the sofa for ten minutes and we just said right then, let’s get on” Matt works at Pot Kettle Black, a coffee shop near Deansgate, and they went down there, made as many sandwiches, teas and coffees as they could and began distributing them to the police stationed in the streets outside. “people talk about community spirit don’t they, but what’s the point in talking about it? You just do it”
You just do it. That pretty much sums up yesterday morning in the streets of Manchester. Those that could help, just helped, those that had to go to work just went to work, exams at the universities went ahead as normal. We seemed to sleep walk through yesterday afternoon in an odd limbo, completely normal and yet at the same time totally not in any way normal at all. People sunbathed, ate meals with friends, shopped, worked and lived, but we were a little subdued. Like someone had turned our colours down just a notch.
The people of Manchester are hurting, we are shocked and we are grieving. But we came together yesterday evening in Albert Square and we stood together, side by side, unafraid and strong. The talk on the streets is not of anger or blame but of pride. Immense pride in the kindnesses shown by ordinary people, immense pride in our incredible emergency services, immense pride in our refusal to be cowed or intimidated and most of all pride in this place, this city. There is a light here that never goes out. Hate will not tear us apart. Let there be love.
As Tony Walsh’s incredibly moving words rang out across Albert Square, we showed the world our strength and our defiance in the face of fear. Manchester will not be intimidated, we have faced hard times and we will come through this too, and we will come through it together. As another day dawns and the world seems to begin to begin to turn once more we look to the future with positivity and hope.
We will support the victims with all the characteristic warmth this cold wet city is famous for. We will continue to stand together, united in all that makes us different. Manchester is the city that gave the world The Suffragettes, The industrial revolution, the computer. We innovate here and we keep moving forward no matter what obstacles are thrown in our path. We faced the full fury of Hitler during the blitz. We faced the devastation of the IRA bombing, and we will face this horror in the same way. With a smile, a cup of tea and great soundtrack.
The dark forces that move in this world picked the wrong city to try to intimidate. As Tony Walsh put it last night: “We won’t accept defeat and we do not want your pity.” I am prouder of my home today than I ever have been before, and I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that my fellow Mancunians will continue to support each other through this with dignity and love.
Everybody is different here, but that’s what makes us all fit in here. Our very diversity is the glue that hold us together, and a handful of broken, cruel people attempting to spread panic, mistrust and division in our community will not succeed. A great poet summed us up beautifully yesterday but I would like to add the words of another, great poet, inspired by the resolve of Mancunian people in the face of brutality in another century: “Ye are many – they are few!”
Frankie Richardson is a member of the Centre for New Writing at the University of Manchester