Manchester, ten years on

I was recently reminded by Jon that yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the IRA’s bombing of Manchester, which was my closest brush with terrorism.

It certainly doesn’t seem that long ago. I’d been to visit Jon for the weekend, and we’d popped into the town centre on what I remember to have been a blisteringly hot Saturday, before planning to head back to his place to watch England’s second group match, against Scotland, at 3pm that afternoon.

We saw the van containing the bomb earlier in the day, as the police were widening the cordon. As is often the case with terrorism in the UK, the cordons were seen more as a hindrance than anything, and we skirted round the ever-widening perimeter enjoying a relaxed morning of chat, wandering and browsing. At around 11.15am, we were in an independent record shop; I was browsing through CDs on the ground floor, in racks facing the window. There was a huge bang, and the window in front of me imploded.

There was talk of a gas explosion, but having seen the van earlier in the day, we were confident in our assumption that it was a bomb. Jon knowing Manchester better than I did, we knew that it was serious, as he estimated that the record shop was almost a mile away from the van we’d seen earlier that morning.

I remember seeing panels of glass that had fallen from first and second floor windows, shattered on the pavement below, and being thankful that there was no one underneath them. I remember walking in a dazed state around the city, wondering what to do, where to go. I remember the queues for every phone box we passed, people anxious to confirm their safety to loved ones, and me trying to do the same. And I remember Jon helping out a guy who didn’t have enough money for our bus home: the driver didn’t see these as extenuating circumstances.

Having eventually arrived back at Jon’s flat, the England vs. Scotland match didn’t carry any importance to me. I think I watched bits, but couldn’t focus. Football didn’t mean anything.


Leave a Reply