The suicide bombing at Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester Arena on Monday 22nd May was the worst terror attack in Britain since the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005. The Manchester attack killed 22 people, and left an additional 59 people injured. Understandably, the circumstance and victims of the attack consequently left the whole world in shock. However, the response of the British public was truly heartwarming. We remained fiercely resilient and unified in the face of pure terror, and I believe it perfectly illustrates the strong, true spirit of the British public.
While preparing to go to sleep on Monday night I decided to quickly check BBC News (mainly for any information relevant to an upcoming politics exam), but was drawn in by the beginnings of reports on an ‘unidentified explosion in the Manchester arena’. I began watching the live news broadcast. Around 11:00pm, there was only speculation as to whether the sound was caused by a blown speaker or popped balloons, which were used in Grande’s finale song of the evening. No one seemed to believe it could have been a bomb.
Videos began emerging on social media of concert-goers frantically fleeing the arena, while police and ambulances began arriving in large numbers. Soon after this, police confirmed a “number of fatalities” due to the unidentified explosion. It wasn’t until just after 1:00am when Greater Manchester Police released an official statement on Twitter stating they knew “19 people had been confirmed dead” and were treating the situation as a “terrorist incident”. Furthermore, at around 6:30am an official statement was released by Chief Constable Ian Hopkins of GMP, stating the death toll and information we now know today.
Amidst the terror and heartbreak caused by this attack, I think the response over social media shows an incredible sense of community in Manchester, particularly. While information on the event was coming out in the early hours of the morning, the response from Mancunians over Twitter was so touching. By 1:00am people rapidly started using the hashtag #RoomForManchester, and it quickly started trending with hundreds of people using it. People using the hashtag were offering rooms, lifts, food, drinks or simply friendly company for those affected by the attack. Mancunians further united as taxi drivers turned off their metres and offered to drive the concert-goers anywhere they needed to go to get out of the city.
Thousands turned up to Manchester’s vigil, held in the city centre, the day after the attack. The crowds held placards stating numerous slogans stressing the unity and strength of the people of Manchester, and how they will not be tied down by fear in light of this attack. One of the most significant and touching scenes from the vigil was the crowd signing Oasis’ ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ in unison. I think this song epitomises the general feeling of the British public as a whole after this attack. Despite the tragedy that had struck the nation, the feeling of British resilience and togetherness shone through.
The British comedic spirit did not let us down either. After the terror level was raised from ‘severe’ to ‘critical’, the hashtag #BritishThreatLevels surfaced and quickly began trending. Through this, Twitter users mockingly explained threats to the British public deemed even worse than terrorism. Personal favourites include, ‘”Sorry, I think you’re in my seat” #BritishThreatLevels’ and ‘”There will be a rail replacement bus service today” #BritishThreatLevels’. If you’re feeling particularly sad about the attack, I recommend you look up this tag. It provides very good comical reads, and perfectly illustrates how British people are not afraid use their satirical humour to pull through during a time of crisis.
Despite a reaction on social media to mock terrorists, of course the overwhelming emotion felt by everyone was grief for those lost or injured in the attack. Ariana Grande announced that she plans to return to Manchester to play a charity concert in remembrance of the victims of the attack, and suggested other well-known celebrities around the world have expressed interest in also taking part. Evidently, supporting each other through times like this is imperative to defeating terrorism and keeping up morale everywhere.
I think the reactions the British public had to the terror attack were absolutely amazing, and I expected nothing less from us. We immediately looked at the attack with sorrow and mourned those lost, but instead of letting hatred and fear take over, we stayed united and resilient as a nation. The fact that numerous vigils were held all over the country and bank holiday celebrations continued despite the increased threat levels, merely reiterates the fact that we must not let the threat of terrorism alter our everyday lives.