Yesterday, I wrote about the horrific terrorist attack in my home city of Manchester. It was a somber piece, but one in which I tried to inject a sense of hope and coming together. If your comments are anything to go by, I think that the message somehow got through.
Since Monday, the city and people of Manchester, have – as they always do – gone out of their way to help in any way they can. They have thrown their collective arms around the victims and their families, holding them up and supporting them until they are strong enough to stand on their own. Not just in Manchester, but throughout the whole of the north of England, this is what we do. This is how we survive.
Without a doubt, on Monday we saw the worst of humanity. Yet, even before the dust had settled and the sirens had fallen silent, we were also seeing the best. I know that many of my readers are from the US and elsewhere, and so may not get to hear of the multitudinous acts of kindness, and the overwhelming strength of spirit, shown in the minutes, hours and days after the horrendous act. I wanted, therefore, to put them on record, to show and reinforce the fact that the goodness in people far outweighs the bad.
Businesses have been rushing to help. The Eastlands branch of ASDA – one of the UK’s leading supermarkets – filled basket after basket with food and water for hospital staff and volunteers. When workers arrived to collect the goods, managers at the store told them, “We’ve gathered this together, but if there’s anything else you need, just go and take it from the shelves.”
Ordinary families have been delivering home-cooked meals to doctors and nurses, many of whom are pulling double shifts without pay. One surgeon, who was interviewed by a local news team, was having his first proper break since rushing to the hospital on his night off on Monday.
The Sikh and Muslim communities have been setting up street stalls, giving away free food and drink to the police and security personnel protecting Manchester’s streets.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Manchester residents took to social media, using the hashtag #RoomForManchester, each one offering somewhere to sleep for the night, or somewhere safe for those stranded to get their heads together and call home. In typical northern style, one message said “Me and my flatmate, we don’t have much, but we have a spare sofa and the kettle’s on #RoomForManchester”
Taxi drivers too, turned off their meters and ferried people home for free. Ordinary people from as far away as Liverpool (50 km away) and Blackpool (65 km away), came to Manchester, to help give people who found themselves stranded, a lift home. Many of them arrived around midnight and eventually left for home themselves around 5 a.m.
A couple out celebrating their wedding anniversary, rounded up as many children as they could and took them to a nearby hotel, before putting an alert on social media, together with their own phone number, to tell worried parents where they were. The couple stayed with the children throughout the night, fielding calls from anxious families, many of whom heartbreakingly discovered that their children hadn’t survived.
Hospitals and blood banks have been so inundated with volunteers wanting to donate blood, they have had to turn people away! When the people of Manchester have nothing else to give, they literally give of themselves.
All these, and many other acts of selfless kindness, make me so proud of my city. The people have stared into the face of evil and said “Our faces, though tear-stained, will never reflect yours! We have courage, we have spirit, and by God … we have love! We will pick up, dust ourselves off, support those who need it, and carry on. That is what we do.”