‘We are proud of our city’: Thousands come together across Manchester to mark anniversary of bomb attack
‘It happened but we can’t change that. We can be positive and we can stand together’
People in Manchester have gathered at events across the city to mark the first anniversary of the arena bombing that left 22 people dead and hundreds injured.
Over a thousand attended a service in bright sunshine outside Manchester Cathedral which began with a minute’s silence that was observed across the country.
Elsewhere, people laid bouquets of flowers in St Ann’s Square and others left hand-written notes on Japanese maple trees that have been planted to form a “Trees of Hope” trail through Manchester.
Pop star Ariana Grande, who had finished a performance at the arena when the bomb was detonated, shared a message of hope, telling survivors and families of victims she was “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,” she said in a tweet in which she also included a bee – the civic symbol of Manchester.
Outside the cathedral a choir sang “Amazing Grace” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, and Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and humanist leaders all addressed the congregation.
On the altar stood 22 lit candles, made from the wax of thousands of candles left in the city’s St Ann’s Square in the days after the attack.
Prince William and Theresa May joined survivors and emergency workers who responded to the attack for the service.
William read a passage from the Bible’s book of Corinthians, ending: “Faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
A large screen showed photographs and the names of those killed. Many struggled to keep themselves from sobbing, and small groups of people held each other as they cried when specific names and faces came up on the large display.
People leaving the service said they thought it was a “perfect” tribute, and that they were “proud of our city”.
Mother and daughter Susan and Emma Wardley had both known victim Martyn Hett for over 10 years through the LGBT+ community. They said the attack had become “part of Manchester’s history”.
Susan told The Independent: “I feel we have to remember the people that died as a mark of respect. We have to remember those who were injured, who helped and saw some horrific sights. We need never to let it go because it’s part of Manchester’s history. It happened but we can’t change that. We can be positive and we can stand together.”
Emma added: “It’s amazing to know we have so much support from other people. But what saddens me so much is that it shouldn’t be because of a tragedy that we’ve come together. It shouldn’t be like that. The world needs to respect and to love each other no matter what.”
Chloe Weatherilt, 13, attended the Ariana Grande concert with her mother Jo Mail. They were opposite the foyer where the bomb went off and saw the blast and said they had dust in their hair.
Chloe said: “I think [the anniversary] is a really nice way to remember the people who unfortunately can’t be here today. And it’s showing everyone that we care. It’s a really nice way.”
Jo added: “It’s the place you’d want to be with people that had the same experience as we did. It’s quite difficult sometimes to speak to people who weren’t there. You don’t have to say anything, you can just be [together].”
They have not been back to the Arena since the attack, but Chloe and Jo are going back on the 26 May for Chloe’s 14th birthday to see the Harlem Globe Trotters.
Jo said: “We don’t want it to stop us going back to concerts again. We are proud of our city.”
Max Trobe, 19, who attended the concert with his nine-year old sister, also praised the city-wide memorial effort.
He told The Independent: “We made so many friends with people. Everyone was so together and you could walk around and everyone hugged each other despite not knowing each other. I’ve met people from Twitter here today, it’s interpersonal connection you don’t get in other places. It takes fear and tragedy to really bring out what’s important and that’s just sticking together and focusing on the positive.”
Salman Abedi, a 22-year-old Briton of Libyan descent, blew himself up as fans were leaving Grande’s concert at Manchester Arena.
Many of those killed were children, and others included parents waiting in the lobby as the concert ended.
Police have said more than 800 people were left “with physical and deep psychological injuries” as a result of the attack.
Agencies contributed to this report