Friday, 26 May 2017

You Know us Because of Pain: Thoughts on Recent Events in Manchester, My Home

You may not have heard of us until Tuesday morning. 
If you had, then it may have been because of a certain football team or two, or the longest running soap, or because we have "interestingly Northern" accents. We are known for all those things...
But now we're also known for a terrorist attack; the most bloody since 7/7. 

I first found out about an explosion at Manchester Arena on Monday night. I was staying at my grandparents, and went in to say goodnight to my grandma, who told me uncertainly that they'd just announced on the radio that there had been an explosion. That's all it was at the time. An explosion. I went to sleep, hoping in the cruellest irony that maybe it had just been a gas explosion, and not what I knew at the back of my mind it must have been.

By Tuesday 6am, it was everywhere, and 19 people were dead (which continued to go up), and what I thought would be the case was becoming a reality. As an anxiety sufferer, I have a brain that works on fear. Two years ago when threat levels started getting higher, I was a mess; I got so paranoid that I struggled to get on public transport, but things calmed again here in the UK at least. 2 months ago, I was in London, not too far away from where the Westminster attack happened, and as I headed home on a train to Manchester late that night, everyone looked shaken and tired, comforted by the words of a food-cabin staffer, who walked up and down the train, asking us about our days. That day I felt glad and safe to be back in Manchester. The reality is that you always hope something like this will never happen, even if there's a probability that it will. 

Now it has, and everything feels different. 

Manchester is the place in which I have always lived; all 18 years, 5 months and 2 days of my life. I don't like it, and have reached the point where I need to explore somewhere else, but I'll never deny that I'm from here. I am a tree and this is where my roots lie; but my leaves are ready to scatter. At least once a week, I am walking the roads of the city centre; it is where I've had some of my happiest moments, and where I've met some of my best friends. I have spent so many nights in Manchester Arena; from Disney on Ice with Brownies and Strictly Come Dancing Live with my mum as a 6 year old, to McFly concerts with my aunt. It's loud and it's raucous and it is beautiful, but now it feels tainted. Everything feels tainted. I will return to the Arena when Imagine Dragons do their world tour in the coming year, but it will feel different. Whilst it's the site of so many wonderful memories, it's simultaneously the site of a massacre.

The events that have transpired in the past 72 hours have been some of the most harrowing I've ever witnessed. I have had 80+ messages on Facebook, and phone calls from international relatives checking my brother and I weren't there. I've sat sickened to my stomach watching the news unfold and distracted from revision with the fear that another missing person may be one of the dead. I've watched all of this, knowing that this all went on 4 miles away, 20 minutes on the train.

When you see your city making international headlines, and the word Manchester being printed in the New York Times, and world leaders (even Putin) condemning what has happened, that is when it hits you the hardest. Right now I'm dealing with intense displacement, as something like this was always coming and yet it feels incredibly surreal. A day before, I was walking the streets after book club, and the last thing on my mind was that there'd be a terrorist attack the next day. They hit us and they hit us hard. As I said before, everything feels tainted, and what felt like home doesn't anymore. For me, this city is a house, but it's no longer a home. I don't feel comfortable, and I feel uneasy. Nobody should have to feel like that in their home, nobody should have to feel worried that by stepping on public transport or going for a meal something horrific may happen, but that's what a lot of us are thinking right now.

Four months from now, I am moving to university. Wherever I end up, it won't be too far from Manchester, where I will always return home to; the disconnect that was meant to come then has come a little earlier than planned, and I have the urge to escape. We are fighting against what happened, but that doesn't mean we are doing it comfortbaly.

In the aftermath of terrorist attacks, the news is rife with locals, leaders, and reporters who are talking about "unity." ANd it's true, we have so much unity in Manchester right now, and we are not cowering in fear against these heinous acts. But at the same time, I think there is a great flaw in the fact that aside from the moments of an incident, we don't talk about fear. I will rebel and I will go into the city tomorrow and lay flowers, but I am also scared, because I no longer feel safe in the place Mancunians should feel safest. We need to make it acceptable to be scared, and we need to say that it is okay to be scared - it's natural. And so this is me admitting it. I will not cower, but I have fear, because as I said, my home will always be my home, but it will also never feel quite right again. 

A home can be a house, but a house is not always a home. 


  1. So sorry for you :( It's heartbreaking...

  2. I am so sorry that you went through this Holly. I remember the Pulse shooting in Orlando and I live not even 40 minutes away from the city. It's so scary to go through that you're home city and your home is being invaded by people who just want to hurt others. Stay strong! You and the others WILL get through this.

  3. What happened is so unbelievably sad but it's somewhat comforting to see how everyone in manchester seemed to come together and stand so strong in such a horrible situation. Beautiful post ♥


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