LONDON – A sombre mood pervades the United Kingdom, if not the world at large.
Still reeling from the chaotic turmoil of a yet-to-be-clarified Brexit, Britain has now been devastated by the taking of innocent lives after a terror attack in Manchester.
At 10:33 p.m. on May 22, immediately following’s performance at the Manchester Arena, a suicide bomber detonated an improvised explosive device in the stadium foyer.
Confirmed dead at the arena were 22 people – including children –with over 59 people, half of whom are children, injured by the blast.
This is the deadliest terror attack to hit Britain since the London bombings in July 2005, in which 52 people were killed.
It has also been four years to the day since British Army soldier Lee Rigby was murdered by Islamic extremists in South London.
The Islamic State terror group claimed responsibility on Tuesday afternoon, citing the act as revenge for attacks on “Muslim lands.”
The bomber’s identity has been revealed as 22-year-old Salman Abedi, who was born in Manchester in 1994 after his Libyan parents sought refuge during the Gaddafi regime.
Greater Manchester police have arrested a 23-year-old man in connection with the bombing.
At least 13 people are still missing, including an eight-year-old girl.
In the wake of the attack, the General Election campaign has been suspended.
In its darkest hour, Manchester has seen an astonishing outpouring of help, from locals, companies and hotels throwing their doors open, to taxi drivers working through the night, to locals queuing to give blood.
Steve, a homeless man who witnessed the attack and helped survivors until ambulances arrived, gravely described having to pull nails out of the arms of people, as well as “a couple out of [a] little girl’s face.”
AJ Singh, a taxi driver in Manchester who offered free rides to survivors, said, “Some had blood all over them. One person described it as a warzone.”
“[But] we should come out and show whoever’s done this that it doesn’t matter because Manchester, we’re glue, and we stick together when it counts.”
Harun Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, paid tribute to the police and emergency services who worked “valiantly” to save lives on the night of the “horrific” and “criminal” attack, adding: “May the perpetrators face the full weight of justice both in this life and the next.”
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said, “The idea that people just throw their doors open or make their car available to people, it tells you everything about the people of Greater Manchester. It is the best response because it is what the extremists don’t want.”
Social media networks Twitter and Facebook have been invaluable in helping the frantic relatives of missing persons further their search for their loved ones, with netizens expressing solidarity and grief for the victims.
Nearly £500,000 of donations have been raised overnight for the families and loved ones of those affected in the tragic attack on Justgiving.com, organized by the Manchester Evening News.
Processing the senseless evil
That the attacker chose to target a venue filled with children, teenagers and families having fun has been deemed cowardly, repugnant and vile.
Prime Minister May said, “This attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice, deliberately targeting innocent, defenceless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives.”
“We struggle to comprehend the warped and twisted mind that sees a room packed with young children not as a scene to cherish but as an opportunity for carnage.”
Gershon Silins, rabbi for the Manchester Liberal Jewish Community, said:
“It doesn’t make sense to many of us that such an atrocity could be carried out at a concert attended by children and young teenagers. A place usually filled with joy and excitement. And as we wake up today to the news that dozens upon dozens of young lives have been prematurely lost and many more changed significantly, the horror of the situation is incomprehensible.”
Silins added, “For so many families, today is just the beginning of mourning for lives lost, or a new reality of family members irrevocably damaged.”
Mayor Andy Burnham said, “We all feel a sense of abhorrence at the nature of this attack… For individuals to go there and seek to terrorise those children and those young people and their families in that way is the most appalling evil act that I can imagine.”
Finding strength in unity
Manchester and the UK are moving forward with their heads held high.
Prime Minister May said in her statement, “While we experienced the worst of humanity in Manchester last night, we also saw the best.”
“The cowardice of the attacker met the bravery of the emergency services and people of Manchester. The attempt to divide us met countless acts of kindness that brought people closer together. And in the days ahead those must be the things we remember.”
The Queen further expressed her support in a statement followed by a minute’s silence in memory of the victims and said: “I know I speak for everyone in expressing my deepest sympathy to all who have been affected by this dreadful event and especially to the families and friends of those who have died or were injured.”
Mayor Burnham says the city is ready to return to “business as usual” and will hold a vigil for the victims on 23 May in Albert Square.
He said, “Though we are grieving, we are strong and we are together.”
“The most important message we must all send together is that we are united and we will not let them win.”@melissalegarda
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