Injured victims, witnesses and their families are still coming to terms with the terror attack at Manchester Arena
Andrew Forgrave, who lives in Ashton Hayes, is a reporter at our sister paper the Daily Post.
He had taken his wife Gillian, teenage daughter India and her friend to see Ariana Grande as a birthday treat.
In his own words, Andrew recalls his experience:
It's 36 hours on from the Manchester bombing and, as a family, we feel worse than ever.
Stripped of the ignorance that accompanied us as we exited the MEN Arena, emotions are on edge and the guilt is building.
This morning my wife Gillian ducked when a car door slammed and shied at the sound of a passing plane. I can tell she’s close to tears.
But it’s our daughter we are worried about. We had not realised how deeply India was affected by what happened.
She didn’t want to go school but she had exams so she had to. Three other pupils, who were also at the Ariana Grande concert, didn’t and the French exam was postponed anyway.
India still sat her drama exam and cried during her performance. She wasn’t acting. She is struggling to come to terms with the violence that robbed so many young people – just like her – of their lives.
On Monday night, before the concert, in a frenzy of excitement, she had spent her birthday money buying Ariana tour T-shirts, caps and bracelets. We tutted at the prices but indulged her as she queued up at a merchandise store that three hours later would be strafed by blood and nails.
Later we would see little girls bawling at losing their merchandise bags in the stampede to exit.
India has binned hers anyway. She can’t bear to be reminded of what happened. It’s tainted by the blood and tears of too many victims. It’s a memory she wants to live without.
As a family, none of us can forget the moment when the bomb went off. From our vantage point, at the far end of the arena, it was like watching choreographed terror. In an instant, crowds queuing on a staircase parted and ran sideways in opposite directions, like a giant curtain of people being ripped apart.
Around us, everyone stopped and stared. At the time no one knew what was happening. People rationalised a simple explanation, like a speaker blowing or a balloon popping. My first instinct was to look for a gunman, but the squall of initial panic quickly dissipated.
People were still rushing for the exits, and India’s hair was pulled as someone scrambled over seats. We tried to remain calm. A mother berated us for not moving out of the way, throwing her kids over seats instead. Kids were crying, women screaming.
When a stadium announcer took to the stage and urged calm, the tension eased. Nothing had happened and we should make an orderly exit, he said.
Of course we now know he was fibbing, but we are so glad he did. The truth would have caused pandemonium. There would have been carnage inside the arena.
Our sister paper the Manchester Evening News is raising money for the families of the Manchester Arena attack victims here
Still, good things have come out of that night. Mostly the kindness of friends, colleagues and even strangers. A bunch of flowers arrived for my wife at the house. Messages of goodwill have flooded in from around the world on phones, emails and social media.
It’s strange how something that blows people apart can also bring people closer together.
Yet we feel guilt. As as family, we wonder if we could have done more. But my wife scolds me and tells me my first responsibility is to my daughter and the friend who accompanied her to the concert. In truth we had no idea what had happened until we arrived home 60 minutes later.
Gillian’s hands are still shaking. It’s delayed shock. She’s finding it difficult to work. India’s struggling too and we’ve asked her teachers to intervene. We can’t stop thinking about those families who lost loved ones, whose children are maimed and in hospital, whose lives will never be the same.
We were one of the lucky ones, our fates sealed by a seat number and a random exit.