By Grace Atkinson
On Monday, Manchester was hit with its largest terrorist attack since the 1996 bombing at Arndale Shopping Centre, and the deadliest in the UK since the London attacks of 2005. Over the proceeding days, many will be following the reports that unfold on this horrific event, but what remains most shocking is knowing that the targeted demographic was that of children, Saffie Rose Roussos being the youngest fatality, at only eight years old.
It is what prime minister Theresa May calls a ‘callous’ act, deliberately targeting ‘innocent, defenceless children and young people’ and it is, without doubt, sickening to know that those involved plotted to strike some of Britain’s most vulnerable. But it is acts like these that leave the rest of the UK vulnerable too, vulnerable to fear, hatred and estrangement within our own communities, which, like the children targeted in Manchester Arena, is a target objective for any act of terrorism.
What is now needed more than ever is recognition for the heroes of this tragic event, made up of health workers, police and ordinary citizens. Just moments after the explosion, Manchester united in a fury to help the victims. Dozens of emergency services vehicles streamed to the scene, taxi drivers hurried people to their homes, and surrounding hotels opened their doors for those stranded.
NHS workers, visiting Manchester for a conference, joined amongst others to help those injured at Etihad Stadium, where they stayed for hours after the attack. Support workers also attended for those who awaited news of their loved ones, and local businesses arrived carting water and food, bacon sandwiches handed out in paper bags.
At the vigil placed in Albert Square on Tuesday evening, the immensity of the crowd was overwhelming, the resounding theme of those attended being that of strength in solidarity. Members of Manchester’s Sikh community handed out free drinks and snacks, a gesture of unanimity, but also a haunting sign of the threat this attack could cause on Manchester’s identity as a multicultural, and tolerant community. These threats also took form that evening through the members of the English Defence League, which collected in protest outside Arndale Shopping Centre.
Mayor Andy Burnham stressed in an interview made at the vigil with CNN that the attacker no more reflects the Muslim community than Thomas Mair, murderer of labour MP Jo Cox, does the white, Christian community.
UKIP have announced the release of their manifesto today, and other leading parties have stated that electoral campaigns will resume after this morning’s minute of silence. In this utter devastation, it becomes more important than ever for the country’s integrity, empathy and unanimity to be practiced, to cast away the terror and hatred that infiltrated the attack, and instead recognise the heroes in whom we rely on, the invaluable aid from police and health services, and the working community that still pull together to help those in need.