Manchester comes together as sorrow hangs in the air
The little girls of Manchester had been the same as the little girls of Dublin on Saturday night.
For many, it was their first concert, their excitement palpably bubbling over as they waved their glowsticks amid the crowd.
Ariana Grande is pre-teen territory, young kids who love the American's bubblegum pop music.
Some of the concert goers in Dublin had noted how many children had to stand on seats and crane their necks to see their idol.
This concert was the ultimate treat.
For some, the tickets had been a present from Santa an interminable number of months before.
It heralded the start of the summer - the school holidays not far behind, stretching out in a succession of happy times, freedom and youthful optimism as they lifted their voices and sang along with Ariana Grande to her finale, 'One Last Time'.
Manchester had been no different to Dublin right up until the moment the crowds of small patrons and their parents flooded out of the doors to leave, after having the night of their young lives, their hope and innocence shattered in a heart-stopping moment.
Medics yesterday declined to go into detail about the vicious injuries that had been inflicted.
They did not want to add to the trauma, they explained. Suffice to say the injuries were life changing for many.
An urgent and heartbreaking request for sandwiches had gone out for the parents sitting at the bedsides of their children in intensive care.
As thousands gathered at Albert Square for last night's vigil, a collection of paper hearts dangled from a lamppost.
They had been placed there by the children of Trinity High School in Manchester, their careful round lettering conveying their bewilderment at what had happened far better than even the sorrowful messages they had written.
"Dear God, please help all the victims of yesterday that have tragically died in the attack," wrote one.
It seemed like everyone from Manchester had come to express their grief and revulsion, but what was striking was the youth of the crowd - this city is one of the youngest places in Britain, with a quarter of the population in their 20s.
College students stood in groups; young couples with their arms entwined.
The evening sunshine was still so balmy that a T-shirt sufficed.
At a corner of Mount Street a large group of volunteers from St John's Ambulance gathered for a briefing.
At the opposite side of the street stood heavily armed police, their presence all day throughout the city striking an uneasy note.
The streets were so uncharacteristically quiet, and deserted, that the signal for the pedestrian traffic lights pierced the air.
The wide and sweeping cordon around the Manchester Arena stood in place all day, meaning much of the city centre was out of bounds.
People spoke of their disbelief at what had happened here in a place so friendly and no-nonsense.
"We're not like other places. We all get along together. You can be who you want to be here," said one college student at Manchester University, who had previously been discussing her holiday plans with a Muslim friend wearing a hijab.
Just before the vigil was about to begin, a group of Sikhs had set up trestle tables and were giving out bottles of water, cans of fizzy drinks and juice.
They had arrived at Albert Square singing, explaining: "We're Mancs, we don't get knocked back."
Then just as it began, another knot of people struggled valiantly through to take a position at the front.
They held aloft a sign which read: "Love for all, hatred for none. UK Muslims for Peace". The crowd parted readily to allow them easy passage.
Another man held up the sign: "Prayers and love from Manchester's Syrian Community".
Three gold heart-shaped balloons were set adrift to float overhead as the vigil commenced with music, applause and then silence, broken by the subdued sobbing of young girls from the back of the crowd.
The Lord Mayor of Manchester, Eddy Newman, thanked the emergency services, which prompted a massive round of applause.
"The people of Manchester will remember the victims forever and we will defy the terrorists by working together to create cohesive, diverse communities that are stronger together," he said.
"We are the many; they are the few. The people of Manchester will remember the victims forever."
There was another roar of support as the crowd heard: "You cannot defeat us because love in the end is always stronger than hate."
Then Tony Walsh, a local Mancunian poet known as 'Longfella', stood to read out his rip-roaring, inspirational poem about the city he holds in his heart. There was a massive roar as he invoked the name of Emmeline Pankhurst, this being the birthplace of the Suffragette movement.
"This is the place.
"In the north-west of England. It's ace, it's the best.
"And the songs that we sing from the stands, from our bands.
"Set the whole planet shaking," it began.
"This is a place that has been through some hard times: oppressions, recessions, depressions and dark times," it continued.
"But we keep fighting back with greater Manchester spirit. Northern grit, northern wit and greater Manchester's lyrics.
"And these hard times again, in these streets of our city, but we won't take defeat and we don't want your pity.
"Because this is a place where we stand strong together, with a smile on our face, greater Manchester forever." Tears streamed down the faces of some of those in the crowd. This was the place they knew.
Not somewhere dark and pitiless where their children became a pawn in someone else's war.