This Is The Place

"Because this is a place that has been through some hard times.
Oppressions, recessions, depressions and hard times.
But we keep fighting back with Greater Manchester spirit.
Northern grit, northern wit in Greater Manchester's lyrics."

Excerpt from This Is The Place by Tony Walsh

On Tuesday morning I woke to an unexpected notification on my phone. "Simon Binns marked himself as safe during The Explosion in Manchester". What?! A quick scan of my Twitter feed made it clear that we now had another date to remember for all the wrong reasons. It was early in the morning - too early for the shock to register. 

Gradually the severity of the situation hit me. Friends from Paris and London messaged to check that my family in Manchester were OK. It dawned on me that my cousin Simon was meant to have been in the arena with Daisy, his 10 year old daughter. Luckily they didn't go due to Daisy feeling ill (I'm thanking all my lucky stars whilst conscious of the fact that others were less fortunate). Details surrounding the attack came into focus with clear facts. Some sick individual had targeted children: 19 dead and 59 injured. My social media feeds were full of posts trying to reconnect distraught parents with their children 💔 

15/06/1996 Manchester is targeted by the IRA who detonated a bomb in the city centre, causing severe damage to the city's infrastructure. By some miracle there are no fatalities, although over 200 people are injured. Manchester undergoes a major phase of redevelopment, costing billions of pounds, that ultimately leads to a significant revival. The message is clear - Manchester swims, it does not sink.

The date stays with me: it was the same day I was meant to go for a trial board at my new school, located in Manchester. Instead I went the following week and became part of a city that picks itself up, dusts itself off and carries on - it's what us Northeners do. 

The Paris attack in November 2015 targeted a popular concert venue, the Bataclan, as well as several bars and restaurants in the 11th district of the city. All of us were in absolute shock as we realised the terrorists had deliberately attacked people who would be out enjoying themselves. It could have been you, it could have been me. For some of us it was our friends and family caught up in the terror.  

And now a fresh punch to the gut. A vulnerable crowd, buzzing after seeing their favorite pop star perform. Utterly exposed and unsuspecting as they left the arena. Grandparents, parents, children and classmates lost - how can your heart not break? I'm trying to imagine the pain of everyone affected by this horrific event and the psychological fallout is going to be significant. 

Something positive that emerges from all the anger and pain is the level of human kindness on display. It's overwhelming. Taxi drivers helping stranded people to safety; medical staff bringing all hands on deck; Manchester locals offering spare rooms or sharing posts trying to reconnect families; the public finding many ways to honour the victims and help their families. I could go on and on...

The terrorists did not break Paris: we were hurt and that hurt has become part of the city's fabric. Once the initial shock subsided we continued to write, to create, to come together and to make more happy memories. We are back out on the terraces and the Bataclan has re-opened.

Manchester is once again displaying resilience under painful circumstances with the city uniting to support those in need. The terrorists will not break Manchester. We love you Manchester. We are sorry for your loss. We are with you ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

- I've been following the Greater Manchester Police who are providing clear and frequent updates on the situation.

Manchester Evening News are crowdfunding to help the families' victims. Their reporting throughout the tragedy has been humane, helpful and respectful of all involved.

- "This is the Place" is an incredibly touching poem, originally written in 2015. It sums up an awful lot about Manchester and the northern spirit.