Sadly, it’s all too familiar. The news breaks. The initial shock. The frantic searching on Twitter. The details emerge. The heart sinks. The waves of sickness. The stories of bravery and kindness. The death toll rises and rises. The names and faces sear into our hearts. The tears; our desperate tears for those who are lost and those affected. The tears for ourselves; there but for the grace of God go we.
These events take place across the world with tragic monotony. We see them on our TVs all the time and sadly; so, so sadly, we get used to them. We absorb them. We don’t give them much of a second thought. It seems so far away. It is another country; another world. But then it happens here. It happens in Manchester.
When it happens so close to home – in this country as with 7/7, the slaughter of Lee Rigby or the recent Westminster attack – it hits harder. It shouldn’t, but it does. The fact that this mass murder has happened on our doorstep – in our region, targeting our people – it hits harder still. It knocks you off your feet. This monstrosity is beyond anything we could imagine – the deliberate targeting of children and young people. Young girls. I type this looking across the room at my little girl and a lump returns to my throat.
Our leader’s search for the right words to reassure, to comfort, to sound strong and defiant but we’ve heard it all before. We always hear the same things; we will not be cowed; we will not change our way of life; we will not be beaten. But, in truth, we will. We will because days like this should change us; if only to make us appreciate what we have and fight harder to protect what we love.
There are two dozen families whose lives have been decimated today and countless others who will be dealing with the trauma of what they saw, heard and felt for years to come. I woke to this news just before 6:30am this morning and spent much of the day glued to TV, radio and the internet, fighting back tears – not always succeeding. I had my family close by and safe and yet my thoughts kept going down the M62 to those who could not say the same and the tears welled again.
I know that we need to be brave and we need to carry on with our lives, not cancelling our travel plans or our plans to got to major events but it’s not that easy. One of the benefits of moving out of a big city like London or Manchester is that you return – as Team Jones have done – to a simpler, quieter life. But there is nowhere to hide from the vileness that was brought to Manchester. We have to face it and confront it by going about our lives and living the best way we can.
I don’t need to be told that terrorism will not prevail – of course it won’t. The UK will never stop being a free, open and tolerant country and I don’t need anyone to tell me that this is not an islamic attack – it was mass murder at the hands of a sick, warped, twisted animal. It has nothing to do with religion – it is a crime. A heinous, wicked, medieval crime.
I may be a rare Scouser as I love Manchester. It was my home for over three years and is regularly my place of work. It is a wonderful, special city, with an immensely proud and important history, great people with even greater spirit and lust for life. In today’s darkness, the people of Manchester have shown us the light. They have shown us the way to respond to madness – with love and with glorious northern grit. But I will not make a pledge to be unchanged by today; I will be changed.
I will redouble my attempts to live a full and active life. I will keep going to Manchester – I will go more and more. I will keep going to events with big crowds. I will download some Ariana Grande music. I will hug my little girl a little tighter tonight, as I have done all day. I will keep those 22 names and faces in my heart. But I will be honest too. If the terrorist wanted to make us afraid and sad, they have succeeded, for today. I have been changed by today and so have so many others. It is what we do tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow that really matters. Let us all change a little, making tomorrow better than today.