A few hundred yards from the office where I work, 22 people were murdered on Monday night by a suicide bomber. A further 64 people were injured, many of them seriously. Among the dead were children and teenagers, and their mums and dads who’d come to collect them from a pop concert at the Manchester Arena.
The victims came from across the north of England. It was the worst terrorist attack in the UK for 12 years and the concert had been deliberately chosen to gain international attention and kill as many young people, particularly girls, as possible. Colleagues from my office and their children were among the injured and the dead.
The suicide bomber, 22-year-old Salman Abedi ,was born and brought up in Manchester, his family had fled the Gaddafi regime in Libya in the 1990s and somehow he had become ‘radicalised’ into a destructive perversion of Islam that made him think murdering children was worthy of God’s blessing.
On Tuesday, on advice from my bosses, I worked from home. The area around our office was a ‘security zone’ in lock down. The city’s second biggest railway station, Victoria, was closed. Meanwhile, the body parts of those killed remained at the scene of the crime.
At home it was hard to concentrate on much. The news was about nothing but the bombing, and quite rightly the General Election campaign was suspended. Checking in with my work team it was clear how shaken and upset many of us were. The horror of indiscriminate terror was suddenly a part of our lives. We all knew the Manchester Arena. We knew people who were there the night before. There were friends of friends who were missing.
The narrative of terror
All around the world that day there was reaction to what had taken place. But it was Donald Trump, speaking in Jerusalem at the Israel Museum, who was determined to co-opt Manchester into his new narrative of terror.
“You’ve seen just a horrible thing going on…. Horrific, horrific injuries. Terrible. Dozens of innocent people, beautiful young children savagely murdered in this heinous attack upon humanity. I repeat again that we must drive out the terrorists and the extremists from our midst, obliterate this evil ideology, and protect and defend our citizens and people of the world. “