It has been difficult garnering my thoughts the past couple of days; I have found it hard to focus my attention on anything other than the news, a situation which is the exact opposite of where I want to be. But I cannot hide myself, I cannot shield myself from everything and some things deny shielding. Some things require us to look.
Two years ago I took my daughter to see Ariana Grande at the MEN Arena. It was one of the best days of my daughter’s life. Such a wonderful experience to be reminded what it looks like to encounter an idol through the eyes of a child, the nakedness of her joy. Its vulnerability.
So I can place myself there. I can place my daughter there. I can place myself in the mind of a parent, a loved one, someone standing in the foyer waiting for their excited child to emerge. I can imagine myself waiting and then hearing something and, maybe, not seeing my daughter again. I can imagine how feelings of joy, elation, could so quickly turn to inconsolable grief.
One of the victims was studying at the same college as my son.
I remember 20 years ago being in the car park at B&Q and hearing a sound that was like something heavy being thrown in a skip. A large, echoing sound. Hours later, after my frantic mother contacted me, I recall my husband mentioning the smoke he had seen as he made his way back to the car. Neither of us mentioned what we’d encountered and we didn’t connect our stories until later.
I recall visiting Manchester city centre a couple of days later and standing outside the cordon and seeing the skeletal, battered remains of the building I worked in and knowing I would never set foot inside that building again. No one was killed that day, though many were injured. It was devastating all the same.
I can’t help thinking about the people who lost their loved ones, those who have suffered terrible injuries. Those people, they deserve my compassion and my empathy and they have it. I, too, can’t help thinking about people hiding in the bombed out remains of their village in Syria or Yemen and hearing the sound of gunfire or the approach of a jet engine or drone and knowing they too can do nothing to protect their children from what is to come. They too deserve my compassion and my empathy, and they have it. The powerlessness of both of these groups of people, their defencelessness, is palpable. I have shed tears for them all.
What difference does it make? My tears are useless. Bombs are destructive wherever they fall and whoever triggers them. There must be some better way than this endless war.