Tuesday 19 June 2018

A country falls silent to honour concert victims

Young members of the public gather in St Ann’s Square in Manchester to pay tribute. Photo credit: Aaron Chown/PA Wire
Young members of the public gather in St Ann’s Square in Manchester to pay tribute. Photo credit: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

Joe Shute and Danny Boyle Manchester

Manchester came together yesterday to remember the bombing that devastated the city a year ago, with a message of defiance in the face of terror.

Leading a ceremony at Manchester Cathedral, the Right Rev David Walker paid tribute to the victims of the suicide bomb detonated at the end of the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena a year ago yesterday.

Salman Abedi (22) detonated his suicide bomb device at the end of the concert with 353 people, including 175 children, around him in the foyer of the venue. A total of 22 people were killed and more than 800 others were either physically or psychologically injured.

The Rev David Walker said: "You who were hurt or bereaved 12 months ago today are forever part of Manchester and forever part of us."

Prince William places a message on a Tree of Hope in the city centre. Photo credit: Paul Ellis/PA Wire
Prince William places a message on a Tree of Hope in the city centre. Photo credit: Paul Ellis/PA Wire

On the altar behind him were 22 candles - fashioned from the thousands left behind at the memorial in St Ann's Square last year - each representing one of the young victims.

Another single, lit candle represented the 800 left with physical or mental scars following the bombing, as well as the emergency services and the families of the bereaved.

People hug as they observe the one-minute silence as they gather to watch the outside broadcast of the Manchester Arena National Service of Commemoration. Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images
People hug as they observe the one-minute silence as they gather to watch the outside broadcast of the Manchester Arena National Service of Commemoration. Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images

At 2.30pm, the service paused for a minute's silence which was observed across Britain. At the end, a crowd of hundreds who had gathered in the Cathedral Gardens to watch the service on a big screen broke into spontaneous applause.

A single balloon in the shape of a bee - the emblem of the city which in the wake of the tragedy became a symbol of solidarity - was released into the cloudless sky.

The service was attended by families of the bereaved as well as British Prime Minister Theresa May, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, and Prince William, who read out a passage from the Bible and later met some of the families of the victims.

During the service, photographs of all the 22 killed were projected on to a screen in the cathedral.

Ariana Grande performing during the One Love Manchester benefit concert.
Ariana Grande performing during the One Love Manchester benefit concert.

Among them was 29-year-old Martyn Hett from Stockport. His mother, Figen Murray, remains too distraught to have attended but his brother Dan, a 32-year-old software developer, was present with other members of his family.

He said that he still gets stopped by strangers in the street wishing to pay their respects and praised the "amazing" tributes to all of the victims.

"I think we've all drawn enormous strength from the outpouring of love and support from everyone, which continues to keep us going," he said.

Another victim of the bombing in attendance at the service was Martin Hibbert, who had gone to the concert with his daughter Eve and was 10 metres away from Abedi when he detonated his device.

Mr Hibbert suffered appalling injuries with 22 bolts that had been packed into the bomb tearing through his body.

He has been left wheelchair-bound although he insists he will prove doctors wrong by walking again.

Speaking outside the cathedral, the 41-year-old from Bolton said he understood why some family members of the victims found it too hard to be back in Manchester.

"I was one of the first to really talk about what happened that night and I think by doing that it has helped me come through it," he said.

"I am learning to control my thoughts and I am still taking anti-depressants but I know I have to keep positive."

Also in attendance at the service were the grandparents of 15-year-old Olivia Campbell-Hardy who was killed in the attack.

A group of extended family were in the Cathedral Gardens including 41-year-old Ragen Ellaway whom Olivia considered her "aunt".

"Today is bittersweet for all of us and the last of the firsts," Ellaway said. "But it is fantastic to see all this support."

Some 7,000 knitted and crocheted hearts were also dotted around the city centre while a trail of 28 Japanese maple trees had been planted in compost made from last year's memorial flowers leading from the station to the Cathedral Gardens for people to hang "message of hope" on their branches.

Pauline Thompson (71) was one of hundreds to decorate the trees.

With a tear in her eye she attached a message reading: 'You are always in my heart.' "Everybody in Manchester feels this tragedy," she said. "It brings us all closer together."

Singer Ariana Grande (below), who had been performing at Manchester Arena when the attack took place, said she was "thinking of you all".

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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