Manchester attack: ‘It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen’

City mostly calm on Tuesday morning as people come to terms with scale of tragedy

A mother and daughter attending the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester describes the scene of panic in the arena. Video: Reuters

 

Ryan Molloy was leaving the Ariane Grande concert with his partner on Monday night when he heard the explosion. But it was not until he was outside Manchester Arena, which is above a railway station, that he understood what had happened.

“I didn’t want to think it was a bomb but that’s what came into my head straight away and just panic set in. We just needed to get out,” he told The Irish Times. “We came outside at Victoria Station and then it was just people lying all over the floor covered in blood, screaming, people trying to search for their loved ones. It was just horrendous. It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”

Molloy (25), a DHL driver from Stoke-on-Trent, was back at the scene on Tuesday morning with a bunch of flowers he wanted to leave as a tribute to those who died. He described the injuries of one girl he saw lying on the stairs outside the arena. “She had massive cuts to the inside of her legs and she was just pouring with blood. Her mum was just saying, ‘someone help us, can someone help us’, and that’s when we thought we needed to help,” he said.

Molloy stayed with the girl and her mother while his partner went outside to get help. “He was going to and from hotels trying to find first aid kits, blankets, anything to try and stop the bleeding,” he said.

By now, Molloy had heard about dead bodies lying in the foyer of Manchester Arena as he looked around at the injured, bleeding young victims near him. “It was just like a horror movie, it was awful. I wish no one to see anything like we’ve seen yesterday. It was horrible,” he said.

Manchester was mostly calm, if a little quieter than usual, on Tuesday morning as the news of Monday night’s attack began to sink in. Black-clad counter-terrorism police, armed with automatic rifles, patrolled outside Piccadilly Station as a helicopter buzzed overhead.

Police evacuated the Arndale shopping centre on Tuesday morning following a report of a suspicious bag. But they made clear that the evacuation of the shopping centre, which was bombed by the IRA in 1996, was not connected to Monday night’s attack.

A police cordon surrounded Manchester Arena, Victoria Station and nearby shops and businesses, as the caravan of satellite trucks, cameras and reporters that accompanies every atrocity rolled into position.

At Caffe Nero on Cross Street, right next to the police ribbon, Alison O’Neill (41) and her colleague Naomi Ward (26) looked over towards the arena as they sat at a table outside.

“I park in the car park there and walk through the foyer bit every day, twice a day, to and from work,” O’Neill said. “The first time I knew was when I put the TV on this morning. I didn’t have my glasses on and I could see blue flashing lights on the TV and everything and thought, ‘what’s going on now’. Then I put my glasses on and the next thing it’s like, ‘Oh my God, that’s here’. Complete and utter shock.”

Ward heard about the explosion around midnight when her mother texted her but she was sceptical at first about the idea that it was a terrorist attack. “It didn’t feel real because it’s so small and nice here, it just doesn’t feel like anything like that could happen. And I said to Mum, I don’t think it’s a terrorist anything,” she said.

Ward is confident that Manchester will pull together following the attack and she is heartened by reports of people opening their doors to those left stranded on Monday night and of taxi drivers offering concert-goers free lifts home. But she fears that, if the suicide bomber is identified as an Islamist extremist, the city’s Muslim community could feel vulnerable.

“We have four Muslims in our office and we’re quite a small office and the first thing I thought was about one of them, Adam. I hope he’s going to be okay and he’s not going to be stigmatised. I was worried for him because they must be feeling even more worried than we do,” she said.