I’ve always been one of those people who cares all year round. Who doesn’t jump on bandwagons or pay lip-service. I don’t wear a poppy (a better explanation of the reasons than I could muster, here), and I don’t change my Facebook profile picture after every Western tragedy, because I don’t believe ‘our’ lives are more important than ‘theirs’, or like the idea of a temporary frame setting on Facebook being the demarcation between when people care and when they don’t. I think these sorts of tokens allow people to “do their bit” for five minutes, then forget about the underlying issues for another year, or until another hashtag sweeps twitter. I believe very strongly that we should all be the change we want to see. So, I strive to be a strong proponent of peaceful solutions and treating all people with respect, every single day.
When I hear on the news that 30 people were killed in a market in Baghdad, I am every bit as sad as when a similar number were killed on my doorstep in Europe. I know hundreds of people die daily in wars, or fleeing from war, or simply living their lives but in a turbulent area. I have always staunchly believed I feel that pain as keenly as 7/7 in London, for instance, and often been shocked at the lack of reporting on these deaths. I consider myself a very rational and detached person, not in an insensitive way, just unbiased and logical enough to look at life scientifically.
Then this happened. And all the memories of going to concerts and netball at the MEN flooded back, particularly the time two friends and I went to the box office, metres from where the bomb exploded. I asked the attendant if the Foo Fighters were coming to play any time soon. She told a 14-year-old me that they never would. I re-joined my friends who asked what she’d said and then laughed to the point of crying when I unintentionally replied “Never” in a cheap horror movie voice. We used to hang around town quite a lot as teenagers. We fit neatly into the mosher category, and along with Piccadilly Gardens, the Urbis was a favourite socialising spot. But it’s Manchester, so we sometimes ventured into Victoria station and the MEN foyer when it rained.
Now my abiding memory of that area will be the shocking photograph, featured on some news sites, of pixelated bodies strewn across the floor of the foyer. And that is all it’ll ever be. The site of the bomb.
I first read the news this morning, and have looked back over the news and read the new developments every few hours throughout the day. Despite not knowing anyone directly affected, I cried every single time – first at the horror, then at the unbelievable kindness and generosity of the people of Manchester. I don’t generally consider myself a patriot, but today I am proud be a Mancunian. I wouldn’t say everything has changed, but I’ve certainly realised I’m perhaps not as unbiased as I thought. No matter how logical I am, I seem to involuntarily care more about this terrorist attack because the victims lived near me, and the location is one I know well. The targeting of young people is particularly sick, and maybe having three siblings between 14 and 16 has added to my emotional response too.
It should go without saying that my heart goes out the victims and their loved ones. I have the greatest respect for all the emergency services and NHS staff that worked through the night. My sympathies also go out to the Muslim, Asian and any BME people that may suffer ridiculous revenge abuse to person or property over the coming weeks.