— Newsweek (@Newsweek) May 23, 2017
Daybreak, and I was awake.
It was 04:38 a.m. I scrolled through Facebook.
I saw last night’s news. Manchester, the Arena.
A blast. Many deaths. Mayhem.
Not Manchester. Not Manchester, again. This city has suffered so much.
It’s almost two centuries since the Peterloo Massacre when 15 lost their lives in the centre of Manchester.
Manchester survived the First World War, but the intensity of the bombings during World War II almost obliterated the city.
During the Christmas Blitz of 1940 and then further raids in 1941, the city of Manchester lost over 700 brave people.
Today we wake to hear of 22 more innocent lives lost in May 2017.
Manchester is strong.
Manchester is proud.
I grew up here, in Greater Manchester. A multi-cultural metropolis that is home to over 2.5 million. The vibrant city centre and surrounding suburbs have produced some of the world’s most talented musicians and artists, famous sporting and political heroes, and innovative inventors and entrepreneurs.
Manchester gave the world the first railway line in 1830, the first English speaking library in the world, and was at the epicentre of the cotton industry during the Industrial Revolution.
The city’s grand architecture is visible for miles around, and I passed these famous buildings on the number 33 bus en route to the city on weekends at age 16.
I remember one day, whilst sitting with a friend on the back row on the top deck on a Saturday afternoon, the bus crashed!
The back seat flew off upon impact. My friend and I were on the floor, stunned but intact. All of the passengers had to vacate the bus. Fortunately there were no serious injuries, only the wounded pride of the bus driver who had hit the vehicle in front.
An elderly Mancunian lady who had been sitting downstairs demanded her money back due to the disruption. I’m sure she got her way.
This was Manchester. This was 1990.
We’d always go shopping in the Arndale Centre, Manchester for hooded tops or branded footwear—the warehouse scene was in full swing for those who knew. Image was important.
If we had any money left, it was for a burger in Wimpy on the corner of Oxford Street across from the entrance to the shopping centre—the biggest hangout for teenagers for miles around.
For quirky items or music purchases there was Afflecks, with its huge Kurt Kobain poster on the staircase, close to Piccadilly Station, where we’d get the bus home.
Wimpy was bombed in 1981.
I was too young to remember the event, but one police officer, Kenneth Howorth lost his life.
Prior to this, in 1978, there was an IRA bomb incident in the city.
Another bomb attack followed in 1992, with 65 people injured, and then later in 1997 when two bombs exploded in the Wilmslow district. Again, all IRA attacks.
The Arndale Centre was bombed in 1996. The IRA admitted the attack in which 206 were injured and Manchester was blown apart at its core. It was a miracle that no lives were lost on that day. It was headline news and the disruption, and destruction, was great.
Transport links to the centre were severely disrupted. My previous bus incident was minor, in comparison. I remember how areas of the shopping centre remained closed for years.
Yet, Manchester never closed.
Pedestrian walkways were created, linking accessible areas whilst scaffolding dissected various parts of the city. Buildings were boarded up and the sounds of pneumatic drilling became the city’s anthem.
In 2004, I moved out of the area—70 miles north of the city, though my family have remained in the area to this day. Morrissey was in the charts that year with his song, “Irish blood, English Heart.”
The song highlights the political divide and religious unrest of the period and, coincidently, was released on 22nd May.
The Manchester born song-writer and I share ancestral linkage with our Irish maternal surname. His lyrical descriptions of life in the city and its slum-like suburban areas throughout the 1970s and ’80s are ones I can envisage.
Preceding decades saw rise to much regeneration, yet poverty and crime were rife during the late 1990s, when I worked in and around the city, predominantly in Longsight.
Multiple terrorist suicide-bomber plots were halted in Piccadilly and the Arndale Centre in 2009.
Had these attacks been carried out successfully, the rebuilt city of Manchester may have resembled its former appearance from the 1940s.
Fortunately this wasn’t the case. Manchester recovered from the Arndale bombing of 1996 and the city became resurrected after many years of building work.
Today Manchester is a thriving multi-national and cultural city, ever proud of its history, heritage, and the children it has borne.
The Manchester Arena is reputed to be the second busiest concert venue in the world and one of the world’s largest.
On 22nd May 2017, a terrorist attack occurred there by a lone suicide bomber killing 22 people. Many more were injured.
I dedicate this article to all the children, adults, and families that have been affected by attacks of this nature all around the world and over many decades.
Manchester, for me, was and still is a wholesome and multi-cultural community. Just a bus ride away on the number 33.
Manchester has suffered so much over the years, as have uncountable towns and cities and countries around the world.
To Longsight Manchester. To the whole world over: “Love is the law here.”
Let’s do this together.
Author: Shelley Dootson-Greenland
Image: Video Still
Editor: Travis May