Late evening on 22 May 2017, an explosion in the foyer of the Manchester Arena killed 22 people and seriously injured many more. The blast occurred as concert-goers, many of them children and young people, were leaving a performance by the US singer Ariana Grande.
This edition of Newsthink encourages young people to consider ways that the public helped each other after the explosion. It also explores the role of practical help and emotional support during and after an emergency.
Suggested age range: 11–19
Curriculum links: PSHE
If your group would like to discuss the attack in Manchester, invite them to share their thoughts. Young people may know someone who was caught up in the attack, or have other reasons for not wanting to share their feelings openly. Acknowledge that, while supporting those who wish to talk.
Discuss the benefits of talking to friends, family or teachers after a devastating event. Who thinks it is helpful to discuss what happened and share feelings? Who prefers to keep their thoughts to themselves, or even distract themselves with something else? We all react differently to traumatic events. For some, talking can help them cope, while for others, it might make things worse.
Next, discuss the importance of letting someone know you’re willing to listen to them. Consider how listening thoughtfully, without judgement or comment, can help someone feel better. Can young people remember a time when someone listened to them in that way? How did they feel afterwards?
When we listen to someone who’s experienced a traumatic event, or seen it in the news, it’s normal for them to react in very different ways. Typical reactions can include constantly thinking about what has happened, having nightmares and difficulty sleeping, feeling numb and experiencing changing emotions. They may feel frightened, sad, anxious or angry.
Encourage the group to think of people who might need someone to talk to following the Manchester explosion. Invite contributions, such as:
- Those who have just lost family and friends and are very upset.
- The security staff, emergency response teams and volunteers who helped all through the night.
- Young children who are frightened or confused by the news.
- People who are already coping with sadness and loss in their lives, perhaps from previous attacks.
- Ariana Grande and the other performers that people came to see.
- Anyone who has been upset by the news reports they have seen.
What needs would each of these groups have? Who might be able to listen to them? What skills would the listener need?
News headlines often focus on horror and suffering, overlooking the humanitarian response of local people. But alongside the painful loss and suffering in Manchester was kindness and concern for others. Ask the group if they know of ways that people helped each other after the attack. Try to list examples, such as:
- Those who helped concert-goers as they left the arena. One woman, Paula Robinson, guided a group of 50 children to safety in a local hotel.
- People who gave first aid to those who were injured. A couple from Bradford, Phil and Kim Dick, helped a 14 year old who was bleeding heavily. They used anything they could to put pressure on her wounds, keeping her alive until the paramedics arrived.
- Red Cross volunteers who provided support in a reception centre for the family and relatives of people affected.
- Taxi drivers who offered free lifts to hospital for injured people and families trying to meet up with each other.
- People who provided cups of tea, food and places to sleep to those who couldn’t get home.
- People queueing up to donate blood to those in need of hospital treatment.
- People reaching out on social media with practical offers and words of support.
Discuss any other examples young people can think of, such as from the Paris attacks of 2015. What motivates people to help in these situations? What impact can their actions have on the people affected? Think about qualities you need to help in a crisis. What would you personally be good at?
If young people have seen the news reports, how do they think the media presented the attack? What words were used to describe what happened? When the news broke, a 23 year old from Manchester wrote to a journalist with a request:
We in this city have not reacted to this terror attack with vitriol [anger]; or with fear … Our first reaction has been to take to the streets with water, with supplies, to open our homes to those who are stranded … If you do choose to write about us, please know that [we] reacted with kindness, empathy, and love.
- @laurenduca on twitter
What message is this young person sending to the media about how to write about the people of Manchester? What difference might it make to the way people feel about their community?
This resource was written by P. J. White of Alt62 and published in May 2017.