‘WE WILL NOT LET HATE WIN’

Mancunians show kind­ness fol­low­ing sui­cide bomb­ing

New Straits Times - - News - MANCH­ESTER The writer is a tele­vi­sion jour­nal­ist and a free­lance writer based in Lon­don

“AREN’T you ashamed?” the white man in his 40s asked the Asian woman, dressed in a hi­jab, sit­ting two rows be­hind him.

The woman didn’t re­ply.

The other pas­sen­gers on the bus didn’t say any­thing ei­ther.

But, ev­ery sin­gle one of them knew ex­actly what the man was re­fer­ring to.

On Mon­day evening, a sui­cide bomber killed 22 peo­ple and in­jured 119, in­clud­ing many chil­dren. Thirty-two of the in­jured are still in hos­pi­tal re­ceiv­ing treatment for their phys­i­cal wounds, some of who are in crit­i­cal con­di­tion. Many of the in­juries were hor­rific and po­ten­tially life-chang­ing.

Bri­tish po­lice be­lieve that the bomber is linked to ter­ror­ist group Is­lamic State.

The cal­cu­la­tive pre­med­i­tated at­tack took place in the foyer of Manch­ester Arena, at the clos­ing of a pop con­cert, where thou­sands of chil­dren and teenagers were be­gin­ning to leave the venue.

These thou­sands of fans, who were singing along with pop star Ari­ana Grande, will never for­get that they were also scream­ing and stum­bling over one an­other as they tried to find the exit doors.

Part of the am­bi­tion of the rad­i­cals who at­tacked the chil­dren in Manch­ester Arena was to di­vide the com­mu­nity; to pro­voke sus­pi­cion and to plant mis­trust; to make mod­ern civilised peo­ple turn against each other.

Call it in­su­lar, but the man on the bus was an ex­am­ple of just that. There are plenty of sim­i­lar cases of such abuse on­line; and even a re­port of ar­son­ists at­tack­ing a Manch­ester mosque af­ter the Mon­day night atroc­ity.

De­lib­er­ately tar­get­ing kids is hor­rific. But you and I both know that these twisted ex­trem­ists — how­ever evil they may be — are a tiny mi­nor­ity of our species, so let’s NOT talk about ter­ror­ists or ha­tred or cru­elty. Let’s talk about hu­man­ity. Be­cause it is abun­dant in this world, and in Manch­ester in par­tic­u­lar.

It was 10.35pm on Mon­day evening, and hun­dreds of par­ents were trav­el­ling to­wards the Arena to pick up their chil­dren.

By the time ac­coun­tant and mother of three, Ro­hana Ab­dul Wa­hab, ar­rived near the venue, she had al­ready re­ceived a call that some­thing bad had hap­pened.

She re­fused to lis­ten to the news on the ra­dio as she drove the 30-minute jour­ney from her house in War­ring­ton.

She knew that it was go­ing to be fran­tic to find her 13-year-old daugh­ter, Adri­ana Ab­dul Razak, and her friend El­iz­a­beth who were at the con­cert.

Ro­hana told me her el­der daugh­ter Adeena rang while she was driv­ing. Adeena was in tears.

“She said ‘Mum, I don’t know what hap­pened. But some­thing bad has hap­pened at Manch­ester Arena. There were po­lice cars, am­bu­lances, a he­li­copter’.

“At that point, I fig­ured out some­thing like a ter­ror­ist at­tack must have hap­pened, some­thing along those lines. As a mum, I wasn’t pre­pared.

“I kept on driv­ing on M62 head­ing for the Arena.

“I didn’t want to hear any­thing at that point. I only wanted to speak to Al­lah and I only wanted to make doa to Al­lah,” she said tear­fully the day af­ter the in­ci­dent.

As soon as the at­tack oc­curred, Manch­ester po­lice closed all roads in the 1.5km ra­dius sur­round­ing the Arena. They also closed Manch­ester Vic­to­ria sta­tion, sit­u­ated just by the venue.

By now, most par­ents had aban­doned their cars and made their way to­wards the Arena, only to be turned away by the po­lice.

In the hall, panic de­scended as hordes of chil­dren and par­ents ran to find exit doors.

Best friends Adri­ana and El­iz­a­beth were sit­ting on the left side of the stage, on a higher tier and had a good view. When the con­cert was over and the lights came on, they were hap­pily chat­ting about how much they had en­joyed the con­cert, their throats hurt from singing and cheer­ing; their feet ached from all the jump­ing and danc­ing. Then they stopped.

“There was a loud bang and an ex­tremely loud ex­plo­sion. Me and my friend were re­ally wor­ried. We looked around for a few sec­onds. We just saw a stam­pede. Peo­ple just kept run­ning and run­ning, away from that area try­ing to find the exit,” said Adri­ana.

“I was run­ning as well. There were hun­dreds of peo­ple run­ning down the stairs. Peo­ple didn’t care. They just wanted to get out of the build­ing. I knew many of my friends from school and from the year above were at the con­cert as well. I was so scared. I held on to my friend’s hand.”

Adri­ana and thou­sands of oth­ers went to the fur­thest exit to es­cape the build­ing, be­fore run­ning away from the venue and wait­ing by some shops.

“My heart just crip­pled, watch­ing peo­ple cry made me want to cry as well. See­ing lit­tle kids run to their mums and to their dads. It was just so un­real and dev­as­tat­ing,” said Adri­ana. “I saw a lot of peo­ple help­ing each other out. Even my­self ask­ing peo­ple if they needed help.”

There were groups of teenage girls scared and cry­ing, try­ing to call their par­ents. But due to the sheer vol­ume of peo­ple in the area try­ing to con­tact their loved ones, a lot of phone calls weren’t con­nect­ing.

By the time Adri­ana man­aged to speak to her mother, she was on the other side of town. It was a lo­cal man called Christo­pher who helped unite mother and daugh­ter.

“When Adri­ana de­scribed her lo­ca­tion I just couldn’t think where it was. But it was quite far from where I was. Roads were blocked. This man, Christo­pher, used Google Maps on his mo­bile phone to cy­cle to Adri­ana, and then walked Adri­ana back to me whilst help­ing other chil­dren along the way. It took a while but my daugh­ter was safe and sound. There were many good souls around that night,” said Ro­hana.

Ro­hana and Adri­ana fi­nally met at 1am, two and a half hours af­ter the con­cert had ended.

They didn’t get much sleep that night, as the ex­tent of the at­tack kept un­fold­ing.

Adri­ana, who has been a fan of pop star Ari­ana Grande since she was 8, said she had been look­ing for­ward to the con­cert for weeks.

“We have lived in Greater Manch­ester for 16 years, and my girls have been to the Arena be­fore,” said Ro­hana.

“If this is an act of ter­ror­ism, they don’t want us to live our lives as nor­mal as we could.

“They want us to give in to our free­dom. Our faith teaches us to redha, to doa (to ac­cept it as fate and pray). I am a firm be­liever of that.”

The city’s mayor, Andy Burn­ham, said he is proud to be with ev­ery­one, who had worked tire­lessly over the last few days.

On Fri­day, Manch­ester Evening News’ front page read “Hail Our He­roes”. Such fit­ting trib­ute for the great city.

Singer Ari­ana Grande said she would be re­turn­ing to Manch­ester and per­form in a ben­e­fit con­cert to hon­our the vic­tims and raise money for the fam­i­lies.

She has of­fered her con­do­lences to the vic­tims and pledged “We will not let this di­vide us, we won’t let hate win.”

Ro­hana Ab­dul Wa­hab (left) and her daugh­ter, Adri­ana Ab­dul Razak (right), who went to the Ari­ana Grande con­cert, at their home in War­ring­ton. With them is Adri­ana’s younger sis­ter, Aleyna.

Mancunians hold­ing up a poster sup­port­ing peace in Manch­ester.

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