We Won't Let the Manchester Attack Break Our Spirits

At a time like this, find solace in the music and relationships that can shelter you from trauma.
May 23, 2017, 1:41pm
Photo via Pixabay

It wasn't meant to be this way. An otherwise celebratory Ariana Grande arena show in Manchester on Monday night mutated into the site of a suicide bombing, targeting children, young teens, LGBT people—the bulk of Grande fans—as well as their parents and partners. I'll leave the speculation to those on social media recklessly choosing not to heed the advice of the police. There is no place for finger-pointing right now. There's just the silence as you process the news stories, wish you hadn't watched shaky videos from the night, think of those who will never see their loved ones alive again.

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So no, this isn't the time to turn grief into a tool for manipulation. The best we can do is allow ourselves the space to understand the impact of more than 20 people killed and more than 50 injured, among them children. This is a time to listen, rather than hypothesize, and hold onto the warmth and revelry that anyone who saved up for gig tickets as a teen, obsessively listening to the artist beforehand, will remember.

Really, this was an attack on the gut-lurching, giddy joy of being a kid at a show. There may well have been people at Grande's concert who had just enjoyed their first gig, their first arena show, their first glimpse of an international pop star somewhere near their hometown. Their memories of Monday night will likely always be steeped in trauma. In the press more broadly, we have a responsibility to try and minimize that trauma by reporting with sensitivity and backing off those close to the attack who don't want to engage with the media. As a music outlet in particular, we stand by Manchester. We won't bow to people who want to make us afraid, who hope to disrupt our lives for good, who wish we didn't step out into the dimming evening light ready to sing along to dizzying pop from that place in our chests where it doesn't matter whether we sound good or not. We won't back down to people who try to wield terror as a weapon against us being ourselves, and enjoying ourselves.

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After every horrific act of terror, our 24-hour news cycle kicks into overdrive in a bid to report everything we don't know. If you're feeling that thick wad of sadness near your throat today, please speak to people you know and trust about your emotions. Please stick to accounts more likely to present verified information—Greater Manchester Police, the NHS blood service—to avoid misleading screenshots or visuals that could lead to more hurt. Listen to those who need to express their upset. If you know children or young teens who may be feeling particularly worried after the attack, Childline and the NSPCC have advice on speaking to them about those concerns.

Monday night has now taken its place as the worst act of terror suffered by Manchester but the path to physical and emotional repair has already started. Grande has built her career on messages of love, openness, and self-acceptance. As a performer who's taught young women how to stand up for themselves, encouraged LGBT people to stand proud in their love and pushed past misogynists who stand in her way, she's played a role in forging a community that will stay true to what loving music is about: the euphoria that bubbles in your gut as your favorite song's chords ring out; the bond fastened between you, your closest friends and the music that soundtracks your time together.

Last night's gig wasn't meant to turn out this way, but the transcendent power of music and Manchester's resilience will help to push us through the fallout. Go to tiny shows. Go to arena gigs. Don't allow an unnameable fear to constrain your life. I found myself listening to Grande's a cappella take of "Dangerous Woman" this morning, to fold myself into its sweetly intoned contours. At a time when it's easy to feel powerless, returning to the sanctity of the music that uplifts you can—at least for now—offer some respite. This cannot break our spirits.

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You can keep up with more on the aftermath of the attack on VICE.com. Anyone in the UK with concerns over loved ones can contact 0161 856 9400 or 0161 856 9900 for assistance.