Four years after the country’s most devastating attack in over a decade, Harry Whitehead spoke to a concert goer and her mum about how their experience has affected their lives.
‘It was actually my first concert.’
A pop concert is supposed to be one of the most exciting and memorable nights of the attendees’ lives. A night of singing at the top of their lungs, and 22nd May 2017 started out as just that.
‘I waited for a really long time to go and see Ariana Grande and I managed to get some tickets off one of the girls who I went to school with.’
Hannah Green, and her best friend Isabelle, both 18 but 15 at the time, were getting ready for their first ever concert together.
‘I went down with my best friend, Izzy. And we’d never been to a concert, I’d never been to a concert before. And thinking that we weren’t going to get to go, and then being given the tickets made us a bit more excited about it.’
But this concert would be one they would never forget, for all the wrong reasons.
‘We’d heard this massive bang’ she explained
‘And we looked around and heard everybody screaming and they started getting up and running, so we just grabbed hold of each other and did the same.’
Hannah’s mum Elizabeth Green, 49, was waiting outside the arena for the girls when the explosion went off.
‘I was stood at the bottom of the steps talking to a couple who were waiting for their son. And we were stood chatting for a few minutes. And then the bomb went off. And straight away, we both looked at each other and we went, that was a bomb.’
‘It was just pandemonium’
‘Nothing happened initially, all the smoke came billowing out of the train station. People started running of the station, they were all covered in blood and as that happened people started coming out of the doors down the steps. There were people losing shoes, tripping up and falling down the steps.’
Elizabeth explained how she originally planned to pick Hannah and Izzy herself.
‘I was going to pick her up in the foyer, which was where the bomb went off, but I don’t know why but Peter was supposed to be going out and he didn’t. So, he said I’ll drive down and wait in the car while go and pick her up.’
She described what it was like once people stopped flooding out the arena and Hannah hadn’t appeared.
‘I actually run into the building. And I ran down the Concourse looking for and the show sec staff were ushering people out and they wouldn’t let me come any further in.
‘I was so scared because I knew what it was, I knew which area it had gone off because of the train station, but I had no clue where they were sat in arena. I tried ringing loads people, tried ringing Hannah, I tried ringing Peter, I tried ringing Isabelle, no answer it just wouldn’t connect.’
‘She immediately became my closest friend’
‘It affected my friendships with other people, it was harder to talk to any of them about it because they didn’t know what had gone on, they couldn’t associate with what I was talking about.’
Hannah and Izzy both went back into school the next day.
‘The first thing we both did when we got to school was try to find the other. She immediately became the person that I spoke to, she was the only other person I could talk to who had the exact same experience as me.’
‘Her counsellor, counselled her and counselled me at the same time’
Despite her traumatic experience, Elizabeth wasn’t offered any support from services.
‘I didn’t get offered support in that way. Because of the job I do, I knew about CAMHS and things like that. So I rang them directly, I didn’t even go through the GP. I rang them directly and explained what happened, because Hannah was really suffering at this point with flashbacks.’ She said
‘In the initial assessment, the lady who was her counsellor, sort of was asking me questions and giving me advice on things to do. So that’s the sort of help I got because Hannah was under the age of 16, I had to accompany her to her appointments
Elizabeth spoke about the guilt she felt in the fallout from the attack.
‘I’d get upset thinking, well, that should have been me, but this counsellor said to me, you know, it might have been, it should have been you, but it wasn’t. So you’ve got to look at it that it wasn’t your time, and it wasn’t meant to happen. There’s no point dwelling on it. It’s happened and it’s not you. So you’re going to make yourself ill, if you keep thinking like that.’
‘I was a bit nervous to get excited’
Less than two weeks after the attack, Ariana Grande and a group of the world’s biggest popstars came together to host a benefit concert to raise money for the ‘We Love Manchester Emergency Fund’
Hannah described the feeling in the build-up to the concert.
‘I was very, very nervous about going to One Love. We’d been given free tickets for the One Love and obviously me and Izzy were the only ones who had the tickets and we didn’t want to go on our own. Right at the last minute we managed to get a ticket for my Mum to come with us.
‘I think if we wouldn’t have got that ticket we wouldn’t have gone because neither of us could face going. Even though it had all been put together in support of us, I was a bit nervous to get excited because the last concert we’d been to attend ended so badly.’