It hurts more when it’s close to home. When lives are lost in faraway parts of the world, people on social media ask why we pay less attention to those tragedies than ones which happen nearby. And they’re right, of course, a human life is a human life, those who are close to us are not more valuable than any other. But the fact remains, whether it’s fair and just or not, that it hurts more when it’s close to home, when we can imagine it happening to us.
Manchester is not my home now, but it was for over a decade, from age 18. It is the place where I found my closest friends, some of whom live there still. It is the place that took a shy, miserable teenager, and showed him how joyful life could be. There was no better city to be a young music lover. My life in Manchester revolved around concerts, record shops and nightclubs, at venues from the tiny Star and Garter to, inevitably, the Manchester Arena.
It makes thoughts of last night’s attack all the more vivid and terrifying, having been in that exact spot in the past. Having been part of that crowd of young music lovers exiting the show, buzzing, excited, looking forward to talking over the highlights on the way home. Ten or twenty years ago, a different show, a different day, it could have been me. In ten or twenty years from now, a different show, a different day, it could be my daughter or son, and that makes the news even harder to bear.
Manchester will survive and prosper of course. It’s a confident, proud city and the actions of one man will not change that. 21 years ago, a couple of years before I arrived, part of the city centre was destroyed by an IRA bomb and I watched the city rebuild and flourish, growing bigger and bolder than ever. But although Manchester will bounce back, it will not be so easy for the friends and family of the young people who lost their lives last night to do so. For your child to leave for a night out and never return is a loss I cannot comprehend.
In recent months, in tough or tragic times, my thoughts often turn to Jo Cox, and I find her message of ‘Hope Not Hate‘ something to cling on to. It is hard, given some of the events in the world these last few years, to continue to believe that hope will win out over hate, but what alternative do we have other than to try and make sure it does?
I find hope in the way that the people of Manchester responded to this attack, coming together to help in any way they could. I hope Manchester remains united. I hope this attack is not exploited for political gain. I hope we can all continue to enjoy lives, our pastimes, our music without fear. Most of all I hope that those children still missing are found, and that the families of those who will never return find some way to hold on.
Manchester, I love you, see you again soon.