MANCHESTER, England -- A somber-yet-defiant vigil was held in Manchester earlier Tuesday (May 23), remembering the 22 people who died and dozens more injured in Monday’s suicide bomb attack.
Thousands of people gathered in Albert Square, in the heart of the city, in a moving display of remembrance to those who lost their lives and defiance against those that caused the barbaric terror attack, which came at the end of a sell-out Ariana Grande gig at the city’s 21,000-capacity Manchester Arena, less than 24 hours earlier.
Many of those killed were children, with 8-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos among the first victims named. Teenager Georgina Callander and 28-year-old John Atkinson have also been named among the dead.
Many of those attending the vigil carried "I heart Manchester" banners and placards or laid flowers at a nearby makeshift memorial. Members of Manchester’s Sikh community were also on hand, giving out free soft drinks to the still visibly shell-shocked and numbed residents seeking solace in the company of friends and others, united by grief.
Eddy Newman, Manchester’s lord mayor, opened the 30-minute vigil by paying tribute to the emergency services, who had worked through the night -- and continue to treat the dozens of injured in Manchester hospitals -- caught up in the blast.
"The people of Manchester will remember the victims forever and we will defy the terrorists by all our diverse communities working together cohesively and with mutual respect,” Newman said to thunderous applause, adding, "We are the many, they are the few."
British Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Manchester Metro mayor Andy Burnham also attended the vigil, which began at 18:00 British Summer Time.
Addressing the multicultural crowd, the bishop of Manchester, David Walker, said, “We stand together to say that this city is greater than the forces that align itself against it, and as we say that we are sending a signal not just to Manchester, but across the world. You cannot defeat us because, in the end, love is always stronger than hate."
Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins -- who had earlier in the day confirmed 22-year-old Manchester-born Salman Abedi as the suspected suicide bomber -- thanked “the rest of the world for holding us in their thoughts.”
“We must all stand together and not let the terrorists defeat us,” he added. “Not let them stop us going about our daily business and create fear.”
One of the most stirring parts of the vigil was delivered by Manchester-based poet Tony Walsh, who performs under the name of Longfella and recited his poem "This Is the Place" -- a heartfelt tribute to the city that birthed the industrial revolution, suffragette movement, early computers and world-famous bands Buzzcocks, Joy Division, The Smiths, Stone Roses, New Order and Oasis, among many others.
“This is the place. In the northwest of England. It’s ace. It’s the best. And the songs that we sing from the stands, from our bands. Set the whole planet shaking. Our inventions are legends. There’s nowt we can’t make, and so we make brilliant music. We make brilliant bands,” Walsh recited to a rapt crowd.
“This is a place that has been through some hard times: oppressions, recessions, depressions and dark times. But we keep fighting back with Greater Manchester spirit. Northern grit, Northern wit. And Greater Manchester’s lyrics,” he continued, before closing with the instruction: “Always remember. Never forget. Forever Manchester. Choose love, Manchester.”
Vigils were also held in a number of cities across the U.K., including Oxford, Newcastle, Birmingham, Belfast and Glasgow.
Watch a video of Walsh performing his poem below: