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Monday night saw an attack at Manchester Arena, which left (according to the most recent reports from Greater Manchester Police at the time of writing) 19 people dead and 50 injured. A large explosion in the foyer at roughly 10:30 PM reduced the Ariana Grande concert to a state of chaos, and authorities are treating the event as a potential terrorist incident. Concert-goers report having heard a loud bang, as well as seeing a flash and smoke. This led to immediate and intense confusion and panic amongst all present. The aftermath of the attack saw roads closed off, Manchester Victoria Station shut with all trains cancelled, and shaken victims wrapped in blankets as bomb disposal units attempted to remove any immediate threat. Grande, unharmed, later Tweeted: “broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.”
Manchester Arena is the largest venue in the city and can accommodate up to 18,000 guests for concerts such as Grande’s. In a statement made to the BBC, Manchester City Council Spokesman Pat Carney said that the event was “a very easy target” for an attack, such as this one because it was attended largely by teenagers and young people, none of whom suspected that their night might go in this direction. Undoubtedly, a huge part of this attack’s impact stems from the fact that it has occurred during a time when worries about this kind of unpredictable mass violence are at an all-time high. For instance, many were shaken when news of Khalid Masood’s attack on Westminster Bridge – where he killed four and injured roughly 50 by driving a vehicle into the crowds – first emerged in March. In even broader, but no less significant context, extreme attacks of this nature have shaken Europe repeatedly in recent years, leaving many feeling distinctly as though their national security is at threat.
Reports of the attack have left the public in shock, but many have rallied around those who were at the concert, offering help wherever they’ve been able to. Almost immediately following the first reports, #RoomForManchester began trending on Twitter as stranded victims were offered places to stay by concerned citizens and a nearby hotel, and as taxi drivers and others nearby offered free car journeys to those affected. This is an extremely heartening response to an unequivocally harrowing event. Many Europeans may feel that they are being pushed by events such as these to reconsider their place in a wider global order, or even to reformulate their personal political positions. However, those who have participated in #RoomForManchester have shown that it is possible to react to terrible situations with solidarity and purpose, rather than fear and sadness alone. Coming days and weeks will see this story unfold further as authorities ascertain what really happened. But in the direct aftermath of the attack, the citizens of Manchester have demonstrated the kind of resolve which is likely to create proactive and gratifying solutions going forward.