The Manchester Arena attack: An immediate (and personal) reaction

Words cannot adequately express my reaction to the terrorist attack at Manchester Arena last night, which took place just after an Ariana Grande concert – an event attended by a large number of children – had finished.

I went to bed last night with rumours and conjecture already circulating around social media. Fearing the worst and hoping for the best.

I woke this morning to read the updates reporting 22 dead and 59 more injured after a terrorist suicide bombing. It is the worst attack in the UK since the 7/7 London bombings of 2005. Where in recent months we have stood with the people of Paris and other locations hit by terrorist attacks, today they stand with the people of Manchester.

I had been in Manchester barely 24 hours before.

My thoughts go out to all those involved. The families of the dead – those whose children and parents went out for an evening’s entertainment and never returned. The families and friends of the injured. But also to those who survived the attack unscathed. ‘Survivor syndrome’ can be a difficult and traumatic thing. Maybe they knew someone who was killed or injured. Maybe they and their family and friends were untouched. It’s not easy either way.

This morning I woke up to find the kids downstairs, innocently watching Danger Mouse on the TV. It made me wish that real-life villains were more like Baron Greenback. It made me wish there really was a white-jumpsuited rodent with an eye-patch and a hamster sidekick to protect us. DM and Penfold would have thwarted the attack and saved the day, no problem.

Sadly, real life isn’t like that. More’s the pity.

We will have to talk to the children about what has happened, of course. But we will leave it until this evening when we have more of the facts to hand. And we will find different ways to explain to our nine, seven and five-year-olds that the world can occasionally be a horrible, terrible place but that life goes on. As comforting as it would be to insulate them from the truth, it’s our duty as parents to educate them about it and to ensure they understand that this is not something that happens to everyone every day.

Death can occur at any time but we will spend all but one of our days living – the average person will have around 30,000 days in their lifetime – and it is these we have to focus on. Live life one day at a time. It is all we can do. And it is up to us to make the most of every single one of those days.

Life, as we have just been reminded, can be fleeting and should not be taken for granted. Hug your children a little tighter tonight. We cannot protect them from all the evils in this world. We cannot guarantee their protection and safety. But we can at least let them know we love them. Today, that will have to be enough.

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