One Love One Heart One Soul

Some people bemoan their hometown, most people consider their hometown the finest place on earth. I fall very much into the latter category. I am a Manc, and proud of it. 

This is the reason why I found myself in bed on Tuesday morning with the radio on and tears on my cheeks. I have never before cried due to some news event, only ever shedding a tear over personal matters. But the accounts of the atrocity at the Manchester Arena filled me with sadness that spilled from my eyes. 

I understand that there are countless tragedies that happen across the world. Terrorism spreads in every continent. We should grieve for the murdered from Istanbul to Mosul and on to Paris and Nice. Yet this terrorist attack hit home like no other. Because it happened in my home. 

Every minute of the day, somewhere in the world, a child loses a parent, a wife loses a husband, a lover loses the loved. One can sympathise with their loss but you feel the grief when it is someone close to you who suffers the loss and the grief is incalculable when you are the one to suffer the loss. And so it is, even in our global age, that the bomb in a market place in the Middle East seems more remote than a massacre on the boulevards of Nice. So when you hear of the targeting of children in a spot which you have stood countless times the loss becomes your loss. The murdered could so easily be one of your family. This was a blow struck in the heart of my city. 

If you do not know Manchester then you will not know what makes it special. Mancunians are simultaneously brash and charming. Older fans of Coronation Street can think Bet Lynch, all leopard print and warmth. There is the swagger of a Gallagher and the laid back attitude of Iain Brown. The City shares the beauty of Tim Booth’s voice and the bleak landscape of a Joy Divisison song. The locals party like Bez with the melancholic wit of Morrissey. We are the music and the bands that manage to span the BeeGees to the Roses. We are the football of George Best and Rodney Marsh, of Eric Cantona and Georgi Kinkladze and of Ronaldo and Aguero. We are the Northern Quarter and the Gay Village. We are friendly and funny. We are mad and mad for it. 

Manchester has all the hallmarks of a big city. There are two premiership football stadia. And not just any old premiership football stadia but the biggest football ground in the league and the homes of the winners of fifteen out of the last twenty five league titles. There is a Test Cricket ground, not just any Test Cricket ground but the ground where Laker took 19 Ashes wickets and Botham performed miracles. There is big business and small enterprise. There is a university with Nobel prize winners. 

We have history. Roman history. Industrial history. Political history. Cultural history. And a history of how we came to be. We boast about Karl Marx, Emmeline Pankhurst, Alan Turing, L.S. Lowry and Tony Wilson. The Lincoln Letter may feature large in Tarantino’s Hateful Eight but he wrote to us first. And we built him a statute because of it. We have a ship canal. A ship canal that Mancunians built to cut Liverpool out of our cotton trade. A rivalry with our neighbours who we love to hate and hate that we love them. 

Every cliche about Manchester is true. We have hard vowels and soft water. It rains. It rains a lot. You can see, if you look hard enough, matchstick men and matchstick cats and dogs. Trams criss cross the city centre. We call siblings “our kid” and we love gravy on our chips.

So Manchester has every right to have big ideas about itself. It is big, it is bold and it is brilliant. But it is also like a village. Two main roads running parallel to each other and you can walk from Cathedral to Castlefield, from Spinningfields to Strangeways and from the Village to the Irwell in about fifteen minutes for each traverse across the city. The City Centre is a compact heart that spirals out to become Greater Manchester. 

And so I return to the bomb, the death and the despair. Proud Mancunians are heartbroken that a son of Manchester, a terrorist born amongst us, could do this to his fellow Mancunians. Targeting children, teens and parents with a callousness that defies comprehension. The City currently seems so sad. Every street corner speaks of sorrow. Every citizen wears a sombre cloak. It is a village in mourning. 

Life always goes on for those left to live it. Condolences are uttered ad infintum to the bereaved. Pledges of strength and recovery are uttered. Help is given. Comfort is received. Manchester will go back to being everything it was and always has been. But it will always bear a scar that will always hurt. Because we care about Manchester and we care about our fellow Mancunians. 

I hope to never cry tears again for the children of my city who have been murdered before they have ever thought a cynical thought. Children who were having a giddy and thrilling night out enjoying life. Never forgotten. 

One thought on “One Love One Heart One Soul

  1. RCH

    Beautiful writing, Jaime.

    You have described perfectly how so many of us feel (including those of us who weren’t born here but who married into and were adopted by Manchester).

    My 19 year old daughter (born at the hospital which is treating and caring for the child casualties of the attack) rang from college on Tuesday to say she felt that she was too far from home this week. But she wrote this, which was published in the student paper, and I thought you might like to read it:

    “Time and time again, my hometown of Manchester makes me proud. From its acceptance of subcultures and social groups to the sheer number of people who go out of their way to help those in need – homeless people, immigrants, victims of abuse or attacks in all forms – Manchester has always been somewhere that I have been proud to call home. Of course, it is not a perfect place, and has multitudinous problems that aren’t being properly dealt with, but I can genuinely say, with no sense of irony, that it is a city with heart and soul.
    This morning, my city made me prouder than I have ever been. Of course, ambulance workers, doctors, nurses and police officers did astounding work in responding to the attack as quickly and effectively as could be hoped in such a situation. Their hard work is a testament to the superb public services that we have in this country. But what truly got me, the thing that made me weep tears of pride this morning as I read news reports and Facebook posts, was the response of the general public, of Manchester’s people.
    It is too easy for terror to rip us apart and to make people turn inwards, away from those in need to protect those that they love, but the people of Manchester refused to do that. People were offering up their homes and cars, donating blood in droves, turning up at the site with blankets and flasks of tea and anything they could provide to help those that had been present at the time of the attack. Taxi companies were giving free lifts to anyone who needed them, hotels offering up rooms to anyone who couldn’t get home. Thousands upon thousands of people opened their hearts to those in need.
    Last night, the people of Manchester proved that we will not be broken by terror. Over the next few days and weeks, I have no doubt that this event will be turned into a political chess piece. Regardless of the intent behind the attack, it will be twisted into a knife with which people will attack religious and social groups and attempt to divide this country once again. But for anyone tempted to place blame or to use this event as an excuse to target different groups or individuals, look to the people of Manchester instead.
    The actions of an individual do not define the values of an entire social groups, but the actions of a city at a time of crisis can help us define what we want our nation to represent. This horrific attack, clearly targeted at our young people, will not be made right by turning on each other. Instead, let us support one another through the grief, respect all people who will have been affected by the event, but most of all, let us show the world a compassionate and united front, as Manchester did last night.’

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