On May 22, 10:33 p.m. local time, a suicide bomber outside an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester detonated a bomb that claimed 22 lives and injured nearly 60 others. The casualties include an eight-year-old girl and several parents waiting to pick up their kids after the show.
In the days following the attack, Billboard has spoken to several survivors. Below, Melanie O’Neill – who was in attendance with her husband Carl and her children Lois (11) and Darcey (10) – shares her account of the explosion and her family’s escape.
We were sat in block 102, right at the side of the stage and quite far down. The concert finished and the lights went on and I said to my husband, “We’re not leaving early because we’re right in the middle so we’ll just wait until the end.” We were queuing to get up the stairs, chatting about the concert when there was a massive bang. It sounded like a gunshot to me. I just went into panic mood, grabbed my kids’ hands and said to my husband, “God, what if it’s a bomb and there’s another bomb planted in here on our side?” We looked around and everybody was shouting, pushing, screaming and running to get out. It was mayhem.
My husband told me that we need to stay calm and there’s going to be more injuries if we all start panicking and rushing and get trampled on. My heart was racing. It was beating out of my chest, but because he was telling me to stay calm, that had a calming effect on my kids.
When we got out of the main arena [into the concourse] people were running everywhere – screaming and crying. We got outside to the steps and I said to my kids “whatever you do, don’t let go of each other and hold my hand all the time.” There was a woman behind us shouting, “Get out of my way. My daughter’s down there.” It was chaos. We got to the bottom of the stairs where the [unofficial] T-shirt sellers usually are and there was only one remaining. He had t-shirts and stuff on the floor and people were just tramping all over everything and pushing people.
If only my kids had been with me it would have been a different story because I automatically went into panic mode as everyone else did. Carl kept me calm. The worst day for me and the kids was the day after, because although we were there, heard the bang and seen the mayhem it caused, we didn’t really know what it was until the morning after.
My eldest has said, “Oh my God. I’m never going to go out again. Something bad is going to happen.” I told her that you can’t live your life like that. You’ve just got to live every minute and make it the best you can because you never know when your number’s up. We could have been sat further round in that concert and got caught up in it all, God forbid not come home. It’s such a shocking attack. You just don’t’ expect something like this to happen. All those people went to a concert for a fun time and some of them never came home.
— Melanie O’Neill