Friday 25th May, 2018.
The week has been inevitably dominated by the first anniversary of last year’s Arena terrorist attack. Equally inevitably there was an enormous amount of media focus on the city, but for ten thousands of Mancunians and many more people around the world, our thoughts were first and foremost with those who had lost their loved ones, the people with life changing injuries and the thousands still suffering the mental and physical trauma of May 22nd, 2017. That remembering was at the heart of a packed Memorial Service at Manchester Cathedral attended by the Duke of Cambridge, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, Scotland’s First Minister, the Leader of the Liberal Democrat’s, and watched by thousands more in Cathedral Gardens.
If the cameras maybe focused on the dignitaries the most important participants were around 150 people from bereaved families, as well as many of the injured, and representatives of the organisations that in the first few hours and days after the bomb dealt with its aftermath. They included people watching at a distance from Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral and York Minster ( sadly with a few problems with the feed to Glasgow). The national minutes silence at 2.30 was observed as rigorously in the Gardens as it was in the Cathedral itself and I hope that some comfort was drawn from a thoughtful and respectful hour.
We remembered the people first but we also remembered the way Manchester, it’s people, had responded to the bomb. Throughout this week members of the public were invited to leave their messages of hope on 28 Japanese Maple trees lining the route from St. Ann’s Square to Victoria Station, although all 50,000 hanging cards had gone by Tuesday, leading to an emergency reprint. All of the cards will be carefully archived and added to the archive material collected last year. On Tuesday evening 15,000 people crammed into Albert Square for Manchester Together- One Voice, a lovely, poignant evening culminating in the city’s biggest ever sing-song, proclaiming our solidarity, our defiance through singing together.
The day ended in another act of remembrance embracing noise as the bells of St.Ann’s, the Hidden Gem, and the Town Hall rang out together at 10.31pm witnessed by thousands in Albert Square and St. Ann’s Square. It was a sad day but also a day that showed the spirit of the city. The day is over but the remembering isn’t. Manchester will never forget.