I Was In The Manchester Bombing: 1 Year Later

The Manchester bombing was over a year ago now, but it really doesn’t feel like it’s been that long, it’s gone so fast. I’m writing this post for a couple of reasons, firstly because I’ve never written it all down and I’ve never really spoken in detail about it to anyone and dealt with everything.

So, by writing this I’m finally facing up to what happened and helping myself to get through it. But also, I wanted to share my story with whoever I could and talk about how it’s changed me.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m the biggest Ariana Grande fan, I’m literally obsessed to the point that I know the names of each of her 8 dogs.

I’ve loved her music for a fair few years now and then fell in love with her as an artist, so when I got the chance to go and see her live for the first time on her dangerous woman tour, I couldn’t contain my excitement!

That night, we made our way to the arena, found our seats on the lower tier and then it began. The actual concert was incredible, Ariana is amazing live and the way her small body projected this massive voice that filled the arena left me speechless.

Ariana overran her set by a few minutes and we started to make our way out of the arena, we’d literally been walking for 30 seconds or so when we heard it.

I can’t begin to describe how I felt in that moment, I didn’t just hear the bomb, I felt it through every inch of my body, I froze, everyone froze, it was just silence, and then in the blink of an eye, it was chaos.

I’ll never forget the feeling of not knowing whether we were going to make it out of that arena alive, and I’m not afraid to admit that I have never been and don’t think I ever will be again, as genuinely terrified as I was in those moments.

The hours after the attack are still a bit of a blur to me, but I remember crying more than I’ve ever cried before, it wouldn’t stop, and I became kind of obsessed with reading everything online.

When I got home, I sat on the couch for hours just crying and looking at everything on my phone, I didn’t even take my coat off.

That night was the hardest night I’ve ever had to get through and I wouldn’t wish that feeling on my worst enemy. I decided I wanted to be home, so the next day I packed my stuff and went home for the summer.

After everything that happened I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to get over it, I didn’t know how I’d be feeling. For the week after it happened, I cried myself to sleep most nights and every time I closed my eyes I was back in the arena experiencing it all over again, it was traumatic.

From that moment on, I shut myself off from the situation and didn’t deal with it, I didn’t deal with the pain, I didn’t let myself feel it anymore, I just distracted myself every single day. Facing everything would just be too hard. I didn’t talk about it half as much as I should have done.

I got through the summer and it went so quickly, all of a sudden it was time to go back to Preston and I was honestly terrified of going back to a big city, being surrounded by so many people I didn’t know, being exposed.

Nothing will ever change the fact that too many lives were stolen that night, and nothing will change the fact that I can’t help but guilty for being one of the lucky ones who escaped unharmed.

I felt guilty for being alive. Why was my life more important than the 22 lives that were taken? Why did I deserve to get out of that arena instead of them?

All I wanted to do was apologise to the families who lost their loved ones, tell them I’m sorry it wasn’t me, tell them how truly heartbroken I was and still am for them.

It was over a year ago and it’s still everywhere, it’s never going to go away.

I see or hear about it all the time; I can safely say not a day has gone by when I haven’t thought about it. But, until now, I’ve disconnected myself from it and I’ve not let it seem real. It’s always been and to a degree still is something that I don’t feel like I could’ve possibly gone through, but I have, and I need to deal with that.

Ariana recently released her fourth studio album titled ‘Sweetener’ with the aim to bring light to a bad situation, to make people feel positive and to not let hate win.

The final song on the album titled ‘Get Well Soon’ references the Manchester attack in such a beautiful way, she sings “when you need someone to pull you out the bubble, I’ll be right there just to hug you”, and talks about dealing with loss and being in a low state of mind.

Writing this post has been the first time that I’ve properly thought through everything that happened on that awful night.

One thing Manchester has changed for me, is that I will never waste my life. I fully intend to make something for myself because to waste it would be an insult to the 22 other lives that were taken, I need to live mine to the fullest and enjoy every moment. Never ever take what you have for granted, and please make sure you tell people you love them- life is too short and unpredictable.

We need to choose love, choose happiness, choose to be free, choose to not let evil win, choose to make this country a place where we don’t allow these awful acts of evil to define us, to choose not to be scared. You never know when everything is going to be taken away from you, so make sure you live your life and live it well.

John Nicoll

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