A few thoughts on Manchester…

THIS is how the world connects nowadays. The first I know about the dreadful news from Manchester is when a friend from Sweden shares a report on Facebook. Since then, the radio has been on. There is something about the radio at such times.

The spoken words offer a shocked commentary on what is known about the explosion at the Manchester Arena, where the young American singer Ariana Grande had just finished performing.

That someone should choose a concert crowded with children and young people seems too difficult to grasp. The death toll now stands at 22, with children among the dead. Again, too difficult to grasp. But we have no other choice.

The headlines roll on, too appalling for words, but words are what we have. Or all we have from this distance. You listen because you want to try to understand.

Words help perhaps, but deeds are more important. And as the news breaks, there are stories of people helping. Taxi drivers heading over from Liverpool without being called. People in Manchester opening their doors to the shocked survivors. Others coming in off the streets to help search among the injured and the dead. And a distressed young woman on the radio just now, who gave out put her mobile number on social media so that worried parents could contact her.

This is now the world connects these days. Our daughter messages her brother from Australia. The middle boy used to work at Manchester Arena until a year or so ago. He still knows people who work there. She wants to know that he is all right. He then texts his mother, saying that he thinks his friends had all left by the time of the explosion.

It is believed that a suicide bomber walked into the foyer as the concert ended and detonated an explosive device filled with nuts and bolts. If this was a terrorist attack, as seems highly likely, thoughts will turn to what could have been done by way of prevention.

We had a family outing to the Arena once, to see Counting Crows and the Hold Steady. Our bags were checked on the way in and we were told we couldn’t take our sandwiches inside. It’s fair to say there would have been security in operation last night.

But security goes beyond a bag-search or a scanner. It stretches into our communities. Were there signs that the bomber had been acting strangely, signs that could have been spotted by his friends and family? These and many others are the questions that will be asked.

The radio rolls on, words running into words.

‘It is raw, isn’t it? Parents and children…’

Those young people who died or have been injured would have been so excited. Some would have been attending their first concert. Did the bomber know that the singer has a strong following among teenage girls and children? Was that why he chose that event on that night?

Anger and dismay are all we can feel today. After that there will be a slow and painful healing. The great city of Manchester will pull together, and our society will become stronger. Some will say society is broken or shattered, but that cannot be allowed to be so.

Thoughts this morning can only turn to those who have died and those who have lost loved ones. Does saying that help? I honestly don’t know. Sometimes emoting from a distance seems to be a strange indulgence, yet what else do we can we offer but our humanity?

Ariana Grande tweeted her own message, articulate in its inarticulacy – “broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.”

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