BLAISE TAPP: Absolutely stunned by Manchester atrocity

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When the phone rang at 5am on Tuesday morning I really did fear the worst. Those kind of calls only ever bring bad news so I answered it with much trepidation.

What I was told was beyond my comprehension – it would have been had I been wide awake. It was all sketchy but the details I was given by the concerned family member on the other end of the line was that there had been an attack on the Manchester Arena and people had been killed and injured.

The information didn’t properly register until I opened up the news feed on my phone and read about the horrific events of the night before.

My connection is a personal one: I was born in Greater Manchester and lived and worked in and around the city for 25 years – it is my city.

Like millions of others, I have watched some of the best names in music and comedy at the Arena and had been due to make another visit to the cavernous venue on Friday.

I was absolutely stunned by what I was told, not just because of my emotional attachment to Manchester, but because of the wickedly cruel nature of the latest atrocity to afflict these islands.

Not a single person who paid to watch Ariana Grande on Monday night will have visited Manchester with any suspicion that they would have anything but a great time. If they had of done then they would not have turned out in their thousands.

Even if some of the older members of the audience had any doubts, they would surely have been reassured by the security at the arena, something which has become commonplace at all big venues in the Western World over the past decade.

But these cowardly criminals – is it time we stop calling these warped individuals terrorists? – prey on unsuspecting members of the public, they always have. What made it so painfully dreadful this time is that this was a concert largely attended by teenagers and those responsible will surely have known that.

There aren’t any words for us to either say or write down which can console those who were personally affected by the events of May 22, a date which will surely be added to a list of those which will live painfully in the memory. There was a weary familiarity to the public’s response to the attack, much of which involved many taking to social media to state their outrage and their grief.

But it was the response in Manchester itself which surprised me the least: cabbies picking up people for free on the night; hotels providing shelter to those stranded in the city and some residents offering up their beds to whoever needed them.

That is the Manchester I know. It is a city which has coped with much over the years including an IRA bomb, which devastated a large area just minutes from the arena, but this will be its biggest test in living memory.

In the coming weeks and months there will be plenty of tears shed for all of the victims of this callous act but the city, and the wider north west region, will put a huge arm of comfort around them.

We can be sure of that.