24 May 2017

Manchester vigil may 2017

At the vigil outside Manchester Town Hall last night.

It’s been sometime since I headed to the city centre and just hung out. It was was my home from the moment I arrived in this great region from North Wales, some 30 years ago.

Things have moved on somewhat since those days and I am a very different person in many ways, with a very different life. But some things just don’t change and, as I wondered where I wanted to go, with no real agenda, the car drove me calmly through the city streets without any thought or persuasion until I arrived in the Northern Quarter.

Back in those days, I got all my vegetables from the market opposite Afflecks Palace, I got my hair cut there, I seldom ventured anywhere else for many years. It’s always been a home from home.

It’s ironic that a bomb designed to frighten people away had the complete and opposite effect today and regardless of a long list of things to do at work, the car just ignored the left turn and drove past our Campus on Princess Parkway to take me on a much more important errand.

Sometimes you just need a cup of tea and a minute to reflect.

As an adopted Mancunian, like so many others that help make Manchester such a diverse place, it’s important that we stand tall in adversity. Easier said than done for me who hasn’t directly been affected by the horrendous events of this week and, reading some of the accounts of what happened, I can’t imagine how people find the strength to continue with such loss.

Manchester has already been shaped by terrorism and has come out stronger and better years later, but the bombing of the Arndale Centre was different to the one on Monday night because no one was killed.
The loss of so many children, brothers, sisters, mums and dads, is simply incomprehensible. Whilst we say we will stand together, which we will, the price paid by the direct families of those affected is simply too high.

At the time of the bomb I was high up on a mountain looking out to sea, in a place called Harris, in the Outer Hebrides. A long way from Manchester and even further away from reality with no access to the internet or phones. I was oblivious to horrific incidents happening back home.

When the first person we met coming down the mountain greeted us with the terrible news that there had been a bombing in Manchester, my heart just sank. I asked to borrow the lady’s phone and hearing my wife’s calming voice I knew instantly she and the kids were safe, but hearing about the atrocities and being so helpless and so far away, knowing so many people are in such pain and being powerless to help, is a horrible feeling.

I was back in Manchester within a couple of hours of hearing the news and headed straight for Albert Square along with the thousands of others who look part in the vigil.

Standing united with a few close friends from work, and watching the tears flow freely down the faces of people I care for very much, knowing they and the thousands gathered there in Albert Square last night equally share the same passion and determination that “love beats hate.” It’s a great reminder of why I chose this city. Why I love this city.

And the great thing, I am not alone. I am just one tiny cog in this enormous wheel that is Manchester.

Manchester is strong, there’s a northern grit here. There’s a reason why the symbol of our city is a bee. Bees work together, they act as one, and now in a time like this, Manchester’s ability to come together to protect the hive is clear to see.
The response has been extraordinary – the response from the police, paramedics, doctors, nurses, taxi drivers, takeaway delivery drivers and more than £1 million raised in a matter of hours. At last night’s vigil it was clear to see how strong our city is and while we take this time to grieve and support those families whose lives changed forever on Monday, we are stronger as a community.

I have never been prouder of our city, our home.

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