Writing for Northern Soul seems particularly pertinent today. I may not be in the North right now, but my soul definitely is. My heart hurts for all the people at the arena last night; for those who lost their lives, those nearby who were injured or distressed and the families and friends wrought with worry and grief. It seems cliché, but given the overwhelming sense of numbness I feel, it’s difficult to find better words. I guess we turn to cliché in times of distress for a reason.
My best friend called me from a club in Glasgow at 1am, distraught that the city we live in was threatened. Reading the reports, and scrolling through Twitter, my eyes prick with tears. Across the world, people are offering their condolences. But in Manchester, people are offering help. Taxis offered free rides, hotels and locals offered shelter, people supplied emergency services with cups of tea and restaurants opened their doors to those in need of comfort. In a moment of chaos and an attempt to divide us, Manchester showed why it will never be divided. We are a melting pot of race, religion, age and politics; every line along which people might be divided exists in Manchester. But we share a spirit of community and solidarity that can’t be broken. The spirit of Manchester spread across the globe last night.
In London, news of terror attacks is no less gut-wrenching or tragic, but somehow less unexpected. Despite being a two-hour train ride away last night – instead of 20 minutes from Westminster or 5 from Russell Square – it felt a lot closer to home. When something like this happens, you realise how small a world Manchester is. It’s not that difficult to believe that you could know someone affected. Whilst I knew my family were all tucked up safely in bed last night, thousands will have been shaken by uncertainty. Parents who had so reluctantly let their children go to the concert – perhaps their first – wracked with panic. My little sister was asleep, but her friends may have been there. Girls from my old school, friends of friends, my flatmate’s dad who was called in to the hospital to help. People checking in as safe on Facebook ceased to seem crass and became a source of reassurance and relief.
When London has faced attacks of a similar nature, I realise that living in a city like this requires a level of blissful ignorance. Here, we are surrounded by big venues, skyscrapers and huge public spaces. People on Twitter reflected on how the arena was an understandable target, commenting on lax security measures. But whilst we can step up security, we cannot stop living our lives. We cannot retreat into fear.
This morning, as people share their reflections on last night and the details of what happened become clear, I can’t quite untangle my feelings from the numbness. There is a deep sadness in the pit of my stomach, as I’m sure is the case for thousands of others, and I am heartbroken that young people were the targets. But more than anything, I am proud of how Manchester responded. More than anything, I am proud to call Manchester my home.
By Isabel Webb
Chips ’n’ Gravy is Isabel Webb’s blog for Northern Soul. It charts her attempts to navigate student life in London and wear her Northern roots proudly on her sleeve