“By the time we woke up in the morning 19 people had died and 59 were seriously injured. That’s when I found out it was a bomb and I thought ‘I’m lucky to have made it out of there alive’.”
On May 22, 2017, Manchester was shaken by a terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert, which sent shock waves across the world. A bomb was detonated in the Manchester Arena foyer as fans left the venue, killing 22 people and injuring more than 800.
“It was about two minutes after the concert had just finished and there was a massive bang,” says Jodi Parratt, 18, who attended the concert. “Me and my friend just looked at each other and my first thought was that someone had thrown themselves off the top of the rails and hit the floor.
“The entire crowd was silent and then everyone started running, and I just thought, ‘this isn’t good’. As we went down the stairs there were announcements saying it wasn’t an emergency and that everyone had to stay calm and that it was just a blown speaker or a balloon. We had to go up the stairs into the main foyer to get out of the arena, but the security said we couldn’t go up there. That’s when we realised that it was more than what we originally thought.”
Jodi knew it was something serious when she finally got outside and saw people sat up against the wall of the train station covered in blood. She and her friend were left stranded in the middle of Manchester as no trains were running to or from the city, without a clue what had really happened.
‘As we went down the stairs there were announcements saying it wasn’t an emergency’
It was only the next morning when she got home to Bradford at around 11am that she knew the full extent of the attack and what had caused it.
Looking back a year later, her memory of the show is understandably tainted by what happened. “I remember two days after the concert I ended up deleting all my videos that I took because I was just too upset to even look at them. But now thinking about it I’m sad that I did that, because those videos were a memory of the happy part of the night but now I only have the sad memory of it.”
Despite her heart-breaking memories, Jodi attended the One Love Manchester concert that Ariana Grande staged just 13 days after the attack. “I was kind of hell set on going because I didn’t want what had happened to stop me from going to concerts, because concerts are my happy place and it’s the only place I feel safe. I didn’t want the same kind of space to be taken away from me.
“The atmosphere was amazing, it just showed that the city of Manchester was not letting hate get to them and they wouldn’t stop being united and strong.”
Charlotte, 19, from Manchester, was also at the concert with her younger sister, who was 13 at the time. “We started walking towards the train station exit but at the last minute turned and walked out of the door. We had just stepped outside when we heard a huge bang. Everyone around us paused and it went dead silent. We could see the exit of Victoria station and we just saw everyone running out the door so we started to run, we ran for about fifteen minutes and it was chaos. We literally had no idea what had happened.”
Asked about her memory of the show, Charlotte says: “I can remember everything [about the concert] but after the bang it was really a blur, I can’t remember much, just running. The one thing I remember clear as day is the silence that fell as soon as the bang had gone off.”
Although she says she still does “everything I used to”, Charlotte explains that the attack has affected her day-to-day life in the year since it happened: “I don’t like travelling on public transport such as trains because I’m so anxious and constantly looking around me.”
Jodi, Charlotte and other fans attending a Harry Styles concert at Manchester Arena on April 9 created a project to remember the those who lost their lives. Members of the crowd held up signs dedicated to the 22 who died in the attack.
“I was a bit apprehensive before the concert because I was sat on my own, so I did have a bit of a cry,” says Jodi, “but during the project it was kind of like ‘this is why I decided to go back’.”
‘I deletED all my videos that I took because I was just too upset to even look at them’
“My friend wanted to do it this year because the anniversary was so close and it was a lot of people’s first time going back to the arena.
“The amount of love in that room, it was that that I remember feeling on the night of the attack during the actual concert. It brought back why I love going back to the arena.”
The concert was a special moment for Charlotte, as she took her sister back to the arena for the first time since the attack. “I loved the project. It made me so proud to be from Manchester and it showed me how nothing is going to ruin my town and how much love was in the room at that moment.
“It made me really emotional as well because I don’t talk about it a lot because it works me up, but it was beautiful.”
This morning, Ariana Grande tweeted a message of love and support on this “challenging day”.
thinking of you all today and every day 🐝 I love you with all of me and am sending you all of the light and warmth I have to offer on this challenging day
— Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande) May 22, 2018
There are several memorial events happening throughout the day to pay tribute to the victims and all those affected by the attack. An invitation-only service at Manchester Cathedral will incorporate a minute silence at 2:30pm to be observed nationally.
More than 3,000 singers from local choirs will be performing in Albert Square between 7:30pm and 9pm, with a mass sing-along finale.
Finally, bells from buildings across Manchester will ring at 10:31pm to mark the exact moment when the attack took place, an uplifting tribute to those whose lives were changed forever on this night 12 months ago.