You may (or may not) have noticed that there was no blog post last week.
The reason there was no post is due to the events of last Saturday. If you follow me on Instagram you may already know what I’m referring to. Simply put, I thought I had found myself in the middle of a terror attack and I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to blog on Sunday.
Dramatic, I know. *Takesabow*
So, last Saturday, my good friend and I were on our annual day out. A time for hitting Primark hard (in a way you can only do without Husband’s and children in tow), before indulging in cocktails and a yummy lunch and mooching around the City Centre like we have all the time in the world.
We attacked Primark like some kind of guerilla special forces team and I ended up with trainer socks and nail varnish. Worth it! Whilst ambling away from Primark and nonchalantly discussing where to eat – you really are spoilt for choice in Manchester – we started to notice people were running towards us. Odd but not too remarkable at that point. Then we see people coming out of the Arndale, down an escalator straight onto market and they were crying. A topless man was running amongst the crowd and a woman carrying a child who was trying to flee by going down the up escalator. The look on her face and desperation of her actions told us all we needed to know. Something was happening.
As our brains were taking it all in, we looked at each other for an answer. More people started coming from all directions around the Arndale. All were running, many were crying. Parents were scrambling.
‘What’s happening?’ my friend asked.
‘I don’t know’, I answered shakily.
‘Why is everyone crying?’, my friend asked. Something she would repeat many times. Something my brain was looping too.
‘I don’t know babe but I think we should run. My gut says we need to run.’
And run we did. We grabbed each others hands – ‘don’t let go’, I told her – as the main doors of the Arndale opened and people came flooding out at speed. Having lived in the city centre for 8 years, I have been present for the Arndale being evacuated several times and mostly people were not concerned, they were p*ssed off. It inconvenienced them. This time was very different.
The look on the faces of parents who were trying desperately to keep hold of their children’s hands or run with them in their arms, literally turned my stomach. I was so happy my own children weren’t with me, because even if this whole thing turned out to be nothing, I didn’t want the responsibility of it. I didn’t want to see fear on their beautiful little faces, like that of the children and parents around me.
The whole time we were running we were looking around to try to work out what was happening. Was there a terrorist(s)? Were we running towards them? Were they coming up behind us? We kept reassuring one another that it was probably nothing but the wobble in our voices betrayed us.
We didn’t know which way to run but went in the same general direction as many of those around us, running as far as our legs could take us, or at least until we felt semi-confident that we were out of immediate danger, before finding a taxi and heading straight out of the city centre.
We debated staying and perhaps heading to Castlefield, an area of Manchester by the canal that has lots of bars but we decided against it. We still didn’t know what had just happened and though we hoped it was all nothing, it felt silly to stay and run the risk. Also, the experience of being in the city centre felt tainted and we just needed to be somewhere else.
Whilst in the taxi we called our families to let them know that we’d left the City Centre because we’d gotten caught up in something and if it ended up on the news, they need not worry because we got out. Again, we tried to reassure them and ourselves that it was probably nothing but just in case.
We headed to Media City and sat by the canal, where we each downed a drink. Our knees were knocking and if I’m completely honest I think we were both (at least I was) in shock.
We tried to find out what was going on and warned people to maybe avoid the city centre until it was clear it was safe, meanwhile the good folks of Media City were drinking cocktails and eating delicious food without a care in the world. Totally oblivious to what had just happened ten minutes up the road. Life’s funny like that, isn’t it?
One drink wasn’t enough so we got a bottle of wine and some food and had a bit of a giggle. We are both quite giggly and I’m terrible for laughing when I’m nervous but we talked about it and let it all sink in and started to calm down. We had a hug. I needed it. My friend did too.
We spent the rest of the day getting very merry, chatting, laughing, putting the world to rights whilst occasionally slipping back into worrying over the mornings shenanigans before telling off whichever one of us brought it up again but I knew it was going to take a while for me to process.
I’m not afraid to admit that I was genuinely very frightened. It was the parents who did it for me. Every time I saw their faces, I got a bit more scared. Mass hysteria for sure played it’s part but in the world of today, people are on high alert. Whilst we can’t give over to that fear and let it stop us from living our lives, there are times when you have to just go with your gut and be thankful you wore trainers.
It turns out that the man we saw running down the escalator topless was in fact the man who started the whole thing. This young man had decided to stand on a table in the food court and start removing his clothes whilst shouting and screaming at people. The police believe that whilst he may not of been dangerous he wanted to create fear and create fear he did. He succeeded in emptying out the Arndale, sending families and teenaagers running for their lives (or so they thought). Whether he considers himself a terrorist, is up for debate. I doubt it. The man likely has mental health issues but create terror is exactly what he did.
I spoke to the Police a few days after the event, telling them what I saw. Hopefully they will find this man and ensure he understands exactly what he did that day and see that he gets the help that he needs if mental health concerns are present. I wish him well.
My advice to you all is this. Your intuition is good. Don’t be ashamed of it. It’s how the human race has survived thus far (despite our best efforts). It’s ok to ‘nope’ out of there and turn tail because if you see a sea of people running, you’d be a fool to not play the part of the salmon and swim upstream with them.