As a Fleet Street journalist I quickly desensitised myself to tragedy in the news. As a hungry young reporter I saw disaster as an opportunity to shine. When news of a murder hit the newsdesk I was first on the scene, a real ambulance chaser. I distinctly remember the feeling on July 7th 2005 as I rushed from Tube station to Tube station, looking for commuters to talk to about the day’s atrocious events while they were unfolding. I understood the magnitude of the situation, and was horrified at what was happening, but there was also an underlying adrenalin rush as I clamoured with other reporters to get the best quote, write the most moving line, or acquire an action shot, so that my light might shine through all this horror. Selfish I know, but true.
And then I had kids.
Being a journalist made me strong, independent, and pretty damn selfish to be honest. Becoming a mother made me the woman I am today – a blithering mess when she hears on the radio that more than 20 people, many of them kids, have been senselessly murdered by some fucked up pyscho acting in the name of God-knows-what, and scores more are injured and unaccounted for.
As soon as I turned on the news this morning it was clear that something bad had happened. Something very bad. The news about Manchester was the only thing being covered.
Not only has some lunatic taken it upon themselves to cause carnage in the most callous and cruel way possible, but they’ve done it to kids. To fucking kids. How can the perpetrator even be human? To pick a concert he knew would be attended by thousands of young people, many without mum or dad for the first time. Having fun, living life, doing what we all do when we’re kids and what kids have an innate right to do – to have fun without fear.
Having been brought up on live music I was ecstatic at the age of 14 when my mum dropped me and my mates off at Wembley to watch New Kids on the Block. She was probably devastated that years of Eric Clapton and Rolling Stones gigs hadn’t sent me in a better music direction, but she was happy to encourage my independence, and going to a concert on your own was the height of teenage kudos.
As the years passed I racked up hundreds of tickets on my bedroom wall, from teeny-bopping days of Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer through Indie rockers the Stone Roses and Oasis to rock greats including The Who, Kings of Leon, and Guns n’ Roses.
I was once at a gig and had to be dragged across the barriers by bouncers, having been caught in a crush in the front row. My mum collected me at the Emergency Room door of Wembley Arena, her face white and full of worry. I was just elated at having got a backstage glance of my music idols.
From then on I was warned to be more careful. Drink more water, don’t stand in the middle of 20 middle-aged men desperate to get up close and personal to Brian May, that sort of thing. Not once did she say “Oh, and look out for nailbombers”. Terrorism like it is now has just never been on our radar like it is today. It’s never felt so ruthless, so indiscriminate.
Having dropped off my kids at nursery this morning, not a minute has passed that I haven’t wanted to leave work and just bring them home. Nowhere feels safe anymore.
And if these evil scumbags are not only acting indiscriminately, but actually targeting places they think children will be, how can any of us feel safe again?
The politicians the newsreaders, the celebrities and the commentators, they are all telling us to be strong. To face the fear and carry on as normal. To unite with the people of Manchester, and stand as one defiant force.
If we don’t, these people have won.
But while I understand their attitude, it’s not as easy as that. My son starts school in September and I’m already panicking about school trips. Suddenly the theatre isn’t safe. The park, the museum, the football game.
My heart is broken today, my mind is blown. The tears are rolling and they just won’t stop.
We need to be strong, we need to pull together, we need to face this as a country. But I don’t want to. I want to protect my children and for the first time ever I don’t know how to. I feel helpless. I want to grab my children, bring them home with me, and never let them leave the house again. I know we’ve got to carry on as normal, but I just can’t see how we can.