‘WE WILL NOT LET HATE WIN’
Mancunians show kindness following suicide bombing
“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.