In Depth

Manchester attack anniversary: the survivors one year on

Children who witnessed bombing still suffering flashbacks and anxiety

A day of remembrance is being held today to mark the first anniversary of the Manchester Arena terror attack.

Events taking place across the city include a National Service of Remembrance at Manchester Cathedral this afternoon and a bell toll at 10.31pm, the time of the bombing.

The Manchester Evening News describes 22 May 2017 as “the most devastating night in the city’s history”. Twenty-two people were killed and hundreds injured when 21-year-old Salman Abedi detonated a bomb in the foyer of the arena as 14,000 fans, many of them children, filed out following an Ariana Grande concert.

Many of the survivors say their lives changed dramatically that night. They have revealed what they have been going through in a BBC One documentary Manchester Bomb: Our Story, available on BBC iPlayer.

Lost innocence

Both children and adults who were at the concert have been left with severe post-traumatic stress.

Lyndsay Turner, from Blackpool, says “a part of her children died that night”. Her 14-year-old son still has flashbacks, struggles to sleep and even experiences hallucinations of the attacker.

Janet Sherret, who travelled to the gig from Fife with her daughter Kaela, then aged 12, says that they both now get fearful  in big crowds and that she has separation anxiety when her daughter is not with her.

“This is why it’s the loss of innocence for my daughter. She never used to think like that and was her carefree self,” she told the BBC. “My most important job is to get my daughter’s sparkle back.”

Nightmares

Other survivors have been plagued by terrifying nightmares since the attack.

Daren Buckley and his son were standing just 30ft from the bomb when it went off. At the time, he made sure his son was safe and then helped staff tend to the injured and dying. But one year on, Buckley still feels like he is in “adrenaline mode”.

"It’s strange because I never used to have fear over anything. I have flashbacks. I must’ve died 200 times in my nightmares," he says.

Unhealed psychological wounds

Mark Robinson, from Leeds, suffered shrapnel wounds and a perforated eardrum in the blast after attending the concert with his partner and her two daughters Like many others, he says he feels guilt for taking them to the show. Although he has recovered physically, he says: “It doesn’t stop overnight because your wounds heal.”

Gritty determination

A group of more than 40 survivors are trying to deal with their trauma by forming a choir, which meets every two weeks. Chloe Aitken, a 21-year-old student from Ormskirk, Liverpool, told The Independent: “Being with a group who understand and have been through the exact thing is comforting. It’s like a family and it feels like a family.”

Ilona Burton, a 32-year-old TV producer who lost a friend in the attack, told the newspaper that the way Manchester’s residents and visitors have come together to support those affected had been “beyond incredible”.

“Manchester mourned together but also stood together in solidarity, love and resilience that I think touched everyone,” she said. “It’s hard for someone to accept that something so horrible happened to our city, but there’s a gritty determination to get through this that keeps us going, and there’s a special kind of strength in that.”

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