A year ago today I was at a proofreading course in York, travelling there and back by train. The route to and from York takes me through stations that are familiar to me from years of travelling on the Liverpool to Manchester railway: Rainhill, Earlstown, Eccles, and Manchester Victoria.
I passed through Manchester Victoria that night on my way home at around about 7pm. The train stopped to let people on and off, a normal, usual Monday evening. Not too busy, never empty. I think I looked up from my book and admired the station roof (I like station roofs), noted that the Arena had a list of good things coming up, and dropped my head down again to read.
If the Manchester Bomber had decided to detonate his device at the start and not the end of Ariana Grande’s concert, I may well have been there. I hope I would have been able to help, even if only in a small way, as a certified first aider, and as a woman not given to great panics. In an emergency, I am more inclined to switch the kettle on and serve cups of tea than go to pieces. Life’s too short to panic.
Today marks a year since that atrocity. It was a cowardly act, an act designed to hit at the youngest and smiliest people in society: our young girls. It was a swipe at the freedom of our western values, the freedom that says young girls can wear what they want (“You’re not going out in that?” being a frequent comment among parents of 13 year olds), go to concerts alone (“I’ll meet you in the foyer at 10.30. Don’t be late” is the parental injunction, as the daughter heads off with her mates) and hang around dreaming of love and romance with boy/girl/self-identified individual. It was a swipe at the freedom of people to love one another, to be themselves, to be individuals in a collective mass enjoying pleasure. It was wrong, in a Jordan Peterson way, just wrong.
What was it designed to do? Beyond the unnecessary deaths of people, the terrorising of thousands there that night, the gut-wrenching, gut-clenching thought that “There but for the Grace of God…” of anyone who has ever attended an event at any arena across the country…. what was the purpose?
I don’t know, but I do know it probably didn’t have the desired effect.
I have been proud and so delighted to see the survivors of the attack on TV today. They’re not 100%, possibly will have nightmares and panic atacks for the rest of their lives, but they aren’t giving in. They are alive, and living their lives as well as they can. Manchester didn’t stop living, either. The arena is back, fixed. The city has its vibrancy, its life, its love on show today. The worker bees did what they do best: came together, made a collective and worked to recover.
There’s a popular concept in modern psychology called resilience. The ability to get up after a set back, to get through it and to move past it. It’s the positive thinking in the darkest night, the acceptance of what cannot be changed and the attempt to change that which we can. It’s finding and using that support system of friends and relatives, admitting the pain and working to enhance the pleasure.
It’s knowing that bad things will happen and being self-confident enough to think you’ll cope.
I think Manchester (and the North in general, since those affected came from across the region) has demonstrated resilience in bucketloads. I think that’s because the city pulled together very quickly. It’s good to see that at times of need, people open their hearts and help. From the people offering beds for the night, to the workers in the hospitals coming in on their off shifts, to the very real community grieving and the support set in place for the survivors. They gave the people affected by the bomb the very thing they needed: friends who were there for them. The postman at our office had been there: he was one of the 21,000 in the arena with his niece. The Royal Mail offered him time off, counselling, whatever he needed. Fortunately, he’s resilient, with a strong network of family and friends around him. He’s fine now, and so are so many others whose friends or relatives were there and were injured. They haven’t forgotten, but they’ve found ways to cope and to move on, to live ordinary lives.
As today marks the first anniversary of the bombing, and anniversaries are always hard as any person grieving for loved ones will tell you, I hope and pray that resilience remains the strongest link in Manchester’s response. That Manchester remains (in the words of Justin Welby, Archbishop of Westminster) “Heroic Manchester, dark evil cannot overcome it.” At 10.31 this evening I will stop, bow my head and say a prayer. It’s an atrocity that should never have happened, but it did, and people got through it. That’s what we do: we survive. I pray that anybody affected by the bombing does that, and more. I pray that they thrive, and that they live their lives with love, joy and grace. That’s resilience.
If you’d like to read more on resilience, what it is and how you can strengthen your own, here are a few articles.
And to set you off on a resilient path, how about a song?
(No book promotion today: this isn’t the time. Go, enjoy your day, and we’ll be back again later on in the week)