By Kevin Canessa Jr.
It was Monday, May 21. We had just finished production of last week’s newspaper. Suddenly, my phone started to “blow up” with alerts from news agency after news agency. One after the other after the other, it was something like “Explosion at arena in Manchester, England.”
At first, I presumed it was some sort of football (soccer) match. Soon, we learned it was an Ariana Grande concert. The capacity at the arena — 21,000. In attendance at the concert, 20,000. Most of the attendees? Young.
It finally happened. A major terror attack at a major arena/stadium.
We will not use the name of the murderous terrorist whose reported suicide bomb of nails, nuts, & bolts killed 22 innocent Britons, the youngest of whom was 8. Eight.
We do pause to remember the victims: John Atkinson, of Manchester; Courtney Boyle, of Gateshead; Kelly Brewster, of Sheffield; Georgina Callander, of Manchester; Olivia Campbell, of Manchester; Liam Curry and Chloe Rutherford, a young couple who reports say “loved to travel together”; Wendy Fawell, of West Yorkshire; Martyn Hett, of Manchester; Alison Howe (unknown hometown); Nell Jones, of Cheshire; Michelle Kiss, of Lancashire; Marcin and Angelika Klis, both Polish nationals living in England.
Also, Sorrell Leczkowski, one of the younger victims at 14; Lisa Lees, the parent of a concert-goer who was waiting in the arena’s outside concourse for her daughter when the bomb exploded; Eilidh MacLeod, of Scotland, also just 14; Elaine McIver, a 43-year-old off-duty Cheshire police officer; Saffie Rose Roussos, 8, of Lancashire; Philip Tron, 32, the step-father of victim Courtney Boyle; and finally, Jane Tweddle, of Blackpool.
Of the youngest victim, teacher Chris Upton told The Sun of London:
“News of Saffie’s death in this appalling attack has come as a tremendous shock to all of us and I would like to send our deepest condolences to all of her family and friends. The thought that anyone could go out to a concert and not come home is heartbreaking. Saffie was simply a beautiful little girl in every aspect of the word.
“She was loved by everyone and her warmth and kindness will be remembered fondly. Saffie was quiet and unassuming with a creative flair. Our focus is now on helping pupils and staff cope with this shocking news and we have called in specialist support from Lancashire County Council to help us do that. We are a tight-knit school and wider community and will give each other the support that we need at this difficult time.”
Beyond all that happened in Manchester just a tad more than a week ago, I can’t help but wonder — how has something like this not happened in the United States?
We live near so many targets just like the Manchester Arena. It’s a minor miracle, almost, that another madman hasn’t targeted Red Bull Arena, the Prudential Center, Barclay’s Center, Madison Square Garden, Metlife Stadium, Citi Field or Yankee Stadium.
In a sense, it’s pretty remarkable that of the 20,000 people gathered at the concert last week, only 22 people lost their lives. Still, it’s a bit disconcerting just how easy it was for a deranged, determined man to waltz right into an arena’s lobby and to do the kind of damage he did.
I don’t write all of this to create panic. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. So many of us lived through the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — and too often, people forget what happened that day. It’s not until there’s another incident that we truly wake up to be reminded just how volatile our world is.
So a week-and-a-half after the events of Manchester, let us all take a moment to remember those who died. And let us remember how lucky we’ve been not to have been targeted in nearly 16 years.
But all the same, as much as we forget about history, let this Manchester attack also serve as a reminder that when we do forget the past, we’re doomed to repeat it.
May that never happen to anyone.
Odds & ends
• As touching as it was that Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II went to a Manchester hospital to visit some of the surviving victims of the attack, I can’t help but wonder if perhaps it would have been better that she’d just remained at Buckingham Palace.
While visiting with two teenage girls with leg injuries, the first question the queen asked the two girls?
“You had enjoyed the concert, didn’t you,” the queen asked.
They both said “yes.”
• Happy birthday to two very special human beings — Stevie Nash (May 29) and Nicole McGuire Neubig (May 25).
That’s all for now. See you again in three weeks (I think.)