Another regular day bleeds into an uneventful evening which ends on the sofa in front of the TV. As I begin to think about heading to bed, I check Twitter and my heart sinks. That now almost familiar, feeling of dread, seeps through my bones as I try and piece together what is happening in Manchester. I have been here before. I was also watching TV at home in November 2015 when the news started to break online about the attack on the Bataclan in Paris. I was also at home in July 2016 when we got the first tweets about a truck, mowing down people watching Bastille day fireworks, on the seafront in Nice, France.
Each time my first reaction was a refusal to accept that this is terrorism. Each time I hoped for a logical explanation to the horror that was unfolding in real time and I was witnessing virtually from my suburban home in Dublin. And each time I was wrong.
On last Monday night as I went to bed, I prayed that only one or two people may have died. I hoped it was a gas explosion. Not that that would make any difference to the outcome for the victims but I didn’t want to believe that such callous evil could exist in the world.
Less than twenty-four hours later, the names and photos start to appear of the first victims. Georgina Callander was 18 years old and described as a super fan of Ariana Grande. Little Saffie Rose Roussos was only 8 years old. There will be at least twenty more photos and names to be revealed in the coming days in a roll call of heart-breaking devastation.
It is just over one hundred years since the end of the Great War when the world lost a generation of young men, young soldiers who died on battlefields, fighting for their country. Today’s wars have no battlefields. Wars are now fought where we live, in our cities, among communities. Approximately 25,000 children have been killed in Syria since 2011, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights. We have moved from a world where men signed up for war, to one where children have somehow become legitimate targets. Children, for whom death can come straight out of a blue sky over Syria, or when walking with their families on the seafront in Nice or while in the foyer of an arena in the UK where they were attending a concert.
I don’t understand for one moment how any man (and it is usually men) can justify their actions when their intended targets are children. Innocent children. Of course, they would say that the children are just collateral damage. The intention is to instill fear and terror into the hearts of the population. And they do.
As the news from Manchester began to break on last Monday night, my first thought was of the parents. Waiting outside the venue to pick up their precious children. I can only imagine their terror and fear. And then I thought of the children, most of them young girls, who must have been feeling so happy and grown up to have been at a concert with their friends and suddenly thrown into unspeakable horror. Alone, with only each other to try to work out what they should do.
Taking your child to a big concert is almost a rite of passage. Most of us have memories of producing the magic ticket for a birthday or Christmas present and the intense excitement as you prepare to share, what is one of the best experiences in life, going to see your favourite artist with thousands of other fans. I took my eldest to the Spice Girls in The Point Depot. For the younger two, it was One Direction in the same, renamed venue. There is something very special about being able to introduce your child to the joy of live performance and the excitement of a big concert.
As your children get older, you have probably, slightly anxiously dropped them off at a big venue with strict instructions to leave immediately it’s over and proceed to your agreed rendezvous point for their lift home.
And if you are parents of very young children, all of this is in your future. And it most likely will be a deliciously bonding, joyous experience.
But right now, when the world feels like a dangerous place for our children, it is important that we hold on to hope and to love. As parents, we must shine a light on the goodness that is all around us and was much in evidence in the aftermath of the horror in Manchester. To do anything else is to let the bastards win.