It’s a year since 22 people attended an Ariana Grande concert and never made it home. The bombing at Manchester Arena was the deadliest terror attack in the UK since 56 people were killed in the 7/7 London bombings in 2005. The majority of the 14,000 fans at the concert were young girls, there to enjoy a night of fun, freedom and pop music with their friends and families. As well as those who lost their lives, more than 250 people were injured and countless more lives were impacted forever, the attack having caused psychological damage that could take years to heal.
While the daily news cycle may have largely moved on and forgotten about the mostly young people caught up in the incident, a new BBC documentary explores the lasting psychological impact and how their lives have been changed forever. Manchester Bomb: Our Story offers an intimate, personal take on the aftermath of an event that dropped off the news agenda after the One Love Manchester benefit concert last June.
In the documentary we meet nine young girls and women aged 11-20 who were directly involved, many of whom are reflecting on their experiences for the first time, and who clearly remain deeply affected by the events of that night. There’s 11-year-old Erin, who experiences flashbacks and still can't speak about what she saw. She remains scared to leave the house and her mum and 14-year-old sister, Caitlin, feel helpless and unable to support her.
There's also 18-year-old Amelia, for whom it was the first concert she attended without her mum, who now struggles to let her out of her sight, terrified as she is of losing her. "At first, it felt like a blast of hot air," recalls the teen, who it later emerged was stood just 6ft away from the bomber. "I thought it was acid so I covered my face. I remember being thrown up into the air, hitting the ground and being pushed to the side. I don’t know if I blacked out but when I opened my eyes, smoke and flames were all around us and I saw people on the floor unconscious. It made me think of a disaster film."
She was in a wheelchair for six weeks after the attack and saw a specialist from child and adolescent mental health services weekly until last September, when she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and it was decided she needed specialist trauma therapy. She continues to have cognitive behavioural therapy/trauma therapy weekly, where she talks about how the events of that night affected her.
We're also given an insight into how the families of those killed are rebuilding their lives. Louise, 20, wasn't at Manchester Arena that night but her life has been on hold following the loss of her brother, 29-year-old Martyn Hett, whose death inspired the #BeMoreMartyn hashtag last year. She felt unable to take up her place at university to study fashion design after losing her brother."I want to be here for Mum and Dad," she says. "I need it as well. I didn’t want to lose the comfort of having everyone around me. When you turn 18, 19 or 20, you make your way in the world, but it’s been put on hold for me. It just feels so unfair what happened to him and all of us. Not just our family – all the people are just so innocent. It’s unfair, it’s really unfair," she continues, before adding that she didn't want to be known as the girl who lost her brother in the terrorist attack. And that's the thing – the world may have largely pushed the attack to the back of its collective consciousness, but the lives of these young people and their families will never be the same again.
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