Manchester attack: Arena survivors mark first anniversary

Manchester attack tributesImage copyrightGetty Images

Manchester is marking the first anniversary of the arena bombing. The survivors of the atrocity, in which 22 people died, explain how they have coped and how they are approaching the milestone.

‘Some people were moving, some weren’t’

Image caption Daren Buckley helped treat and comfort the wounded and dying

For Daren Buckley, life changed forever when 22-year-old suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated his home-made device.

The 50-year-old had been about to leave the Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena when the blast almost knocked him and his son off their feet.

Manchester attack: Arena survivors mark first anniversary
Manchester attack: Arena survivors mark first anniversary

The pair had been standing only nine metres (30ft) from the bomber, and Mr Buckley struggles to describe the “complete chaos” of the moments that followed, which were filled with screams and confusion.

Yet the father of four’s first instinct was not to flee, but to run to help the wounded – ripping up piles of souvenir Ariana Grande T-shirts to be used as bandages.

He said: “We saw a big puff of smoke and a flash. It knocked us back. We thought the building was about to collapse. I couldn’t hear anything – it was like water was in my ears.

“I took my son to a safe place with another chap and said to him to stay there, that I had to go and help.

“That’s when the screaming started. The scenes in the foyer I can’t describe. It was like a nightmare. I thought someone was going to tap me on my shoulder and say it was a dream.”

Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption Thousands attended a vigil in Manchester’s Albert Square following the bombing

Mr Buckley, who has basic first aid training, joined a handful of arena staff who initially tended to the injured and dying.

He continued: “I looked around on the floor. Some people were moving, some weren’t. I was talking to people who seemed alright, just trying to reassure them. It was just an instinct, which is human.”

The emergency services soon arrived, before armed police declared the area a crime scene, and Mr Buckley and his son were moved away.

A year later, the married pub cellar man remains traumatised.

Mr Buckley, from Swinton, has only recently felt able to return to Manchester city centre, but he plans to go to the service at the city’s cathedral.

He said he’d found comfort in joining the Manchester Survivors Choir, which will be performing at Tuesday’s sing-along event in Albert Square, but that his recovery was far from complete.

“If I hear sirens I’m thinking ‘do I have to go and help someone else?’ – I feel like I’m still in adrenaline mode,” he said.

“It’s strange because I never used to have fear over anything. I have flashbacks.

“I must’ve died 200 times in my nightmares.”

‘A part of my children died that night’

Image copyrightLyndsay Turner
Image caption Lyndsay Turner and her son Ciaran Danson say it has been a struggle to get help

When Lyndsay Turner bought her two children tickets to the concert she wanted to make sure it was a special evening and hired a limo.

She had originally planned to go with them but was awaiting surgery so gave the ticket to her sister-in-law, who attended with Lyndsay’s mother.

However, she kept in touch with her family throughout the night, and was on the phone to her son Ciaran Danson, now 14, when the explosion happened.

“I heard the bang and I said ‘Ciaran, what’s that?’ and I could hear panic in his voice and then the phone went dead.”

It wasn’t until 45 minutes later that her mother was able to ring.

“The fact that I bought the tickets, I put them in danger, it’ll always live with me,” she said.

Image copyrightCiaran Danson
Image caption Ciaran still hopes to follow in his hero’s footsteps and become a singer one day

Both children were left with severe post-traumatic stress.

Tegan, now 12, spent some time in hospital and Ciaran is still struggling.

He has flashbacks, has been unable to sleep and experiences “very scary” hallucinations of the attacker, he said.

“It was just a blur at first but now he’s as real as you or me.”

Ms Turner, from Blackpool, says “a part of her children died that night” and Ciaran also says he has changed.

The teenager said: “Before that I was very bubbly and happy, I was always singing and acting and now I feel depressed, I just don’t want to go out of the house.”

He said he had struggled to get mental health support and felt “forgotten”.

“I had counselling for six weeks. It helped a bit, but not much and then after that I got left.

“I’ve just been waiting for referral after referral with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. I’ve only just been seen now. “

Image copyrightShutterstock
Image caption Armed police stand guard near ambulances on the night of the bombing

One of the hardest things for Ciaran has been bullying, which has resulted in him being taken out of school by his social worker.

He will be attending a non-mainstream school over the next few months.

Ms Turner said children have made “flippant” and “disgusting” comments, highlighting one incident in particular.

“An Asian child had started at the school and some pupils thought it would be funny to say ‘she’s here to blow you up’,” she said.

“It’s disgusting the society we live in where children are thinking like that.”

Ciaran is set to start counselling this week and is hoping it will help him. He also wants to be able to go back to the arena as he hopes to follow in his idol’s footsteps and become a singer.

Ms Turner believes finding help has been harder because the family don’t live in Manchester.

“There are a lot of people affected all over the UK, probably outside of the UK. It shouldn’t just be centred around Manchester; you have to cater for everybody.

“I can’t even see him smile. All I want to do is see him smile again.”

‘They were effectively warzone injuries’

Image copyrightMRI
Image caption Dr Alistair Rennie coordinated the response to the bombing at two hospitals

Emergency medicine consultant Alistair Rennie co-ordinated the response to the attack at Manchester Royal Infirmary and the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

After declaring a major incident, he worked for 24 hours without sleep, managing surgeons, liaising with the police and ambulance service.

Dr Rennie, who describes his role as “managing the shop floor”, said he was left deeply saddened by the deaths of three of the victims at the two hospitals.

He said: “We all train for this, and you can imagine having a bad bus crash or a train crash to deal with. On this occasion, what was even more emotive was that this had been planned.

“That was an emotional issue to deal with. You are treating people who have been targeted.”

Dozens of staff answered the call to come into the hospitals, with some getting to work despite fearing for the safety of friends or loved ones at the arena.

Dr Rennie said they were faced with what were effectively “warzone” injuries and, across Greater Manchester, 23 operating theatres worked through the night.

With thoughts now turning to Tuesday’s anniversary, Dr Rennie said it had remained “very difficult” for some staff to come to terms with the bombing.

“We are all human. Some have been quite badly affected, particularly some of those who dealt with children,” he said.

Image copyrightVarious
Image caption Twenty-two people were killed in the blast on 22 May

Returning home to his young children, Dr Rennie said he was left “fully aware” of the loss and grief families had suffered.

“It was one of those moments of thinking ‘my God, what are other people going through?'”

The hospitals will observe a minute’s silence on Tuesday. At the children’s hospital, this will be broken by singing from the Manchester Survivors Choir – something Dr Rennie fears could “tip me into a crying, bubbling wreck”.

However, he said the pressures of work would mean there won’t be much time to spend in reflection.

“Life is very short,” he said. “We’ve got to live the best life we can for everyone.”

‘I don’t know where those angels came from’

Image copyrightLondon News Pictures
Image caption Mark Robinson was photographed as he was helped from the area

Mark Robinson travelled to the concert from Leeds with his partner Eli and her two daughters.

He was standing with Eli in the foyer about seven metres (23ft) away from Abedi at the time of the blast, and suffered shrapnel wounds and a perforated eardrum.

“The actual explosion, your brain cannot process fast enough what’s gone on. You think you’re in a dream, you’re certainly not trained for what you see,” he said.

“How can I describe the last year? It’s like being at the edge of a pond with ripples keep coming towards you. The flashbacks that you have.

“I feel guilt for taking Eli and her girls there. Why was it that concert?”

Although he has recovered from his physical injuries, he said he was still affected by what happened that night.

“It doesn’t stop overnight because your wounds heal,” he explained, mentioning the regular blood tests to check for HIV and hepatitis he continues to undergo.

However, he credits going back to work as something that has helped him.

Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption Manchester’s St Ann’s Square became a focal point for tributes following the attack

“My colleagues, the company I work for, they were absolutely fantastic and it’s so humbling,” he said.

“Life is so precious and it can be taken away in an instant.

“Walking the dog, listening to birdsong, rain on your face. Simple things that you appreciate.

“I am so so grateful that I have got my legs and arms and I was able to go back to work and carry on.”

Mr Robinson and his partner will be attending the service at Manchester Cathedral.

He said he was glad Prince William and Theresa May would be in attendance as it “shows it’s not forgotten in higher circles”.

“It’s important to go and hopefully see the people who helped you. And to remember those who didn’t make it.”

‘My daughter has lost her innocence’

Image copyright Janet Sherret
Image caption Janet Sherret says her most important job is to get her daughter’s sparkle back

Janet Sherret travelled to the gig with her daughter Kaela, then aged 12. Mrs Sherret, from Fife, has since joined an online support group for survivors of the bombing.

“Living in Scotland, we felt kind of left out of it because obviously there was the Manchester Resilience Hub support group,” she said.

The past year has been “like a recovery from everything”, Mrs Sherret says, and the emotional impact will “remain there forever”.

“It puts a different slant on anywhere you go where there’s a big crowd because you’re on high alert.

“This is why it’s the loss of innocence for my daughter. She never used to think like that and was her carefree self.”

Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption Manchester was awash with tributes following the attack

Mrs Sherret has been left with separation anxiety when her daughter is not with her.

“I thought I was having to protect her with my life,” she said. “It’s not something you come across every day.”

She, too, has experienced feelings of guilt.

“You have this guilt that you took your child to something that you thought would be safe, as well as a survivor’s guilt.”

The mother and daughter plan to mark the anniversary with a simple “girlie day”.

“I’m going to keep her off school and we’ll sit and watch films.

“My most important job is to get my daughter’s sparkle back.”

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