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People In Manchester Remember The Victims Of Deadly Suicide Bombing


The British prime minister, Theresa May, says this evening that another terrorist attack in the U.K. may be imminent. Last night, 22 people were killed and dozens more injured in an attack at a downtown arena in the city of Manchester. A concert had just ended. Now, many in that audience were young people, and nearly 24 hours after the attacks, some desperate families are still trying to find their missing children.

Thousands of Manchester residents voiced sympathy for the victims and defiance against terrorism at a vigil today. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson was there.


SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: The vigil opened with the soothing strings of British composer Edward Elgar as residents filled the square in front of Manchester Town Hall. Many weren't seeking to be soothed. They wanted to show their defiance in the face of last night's suicide bombing that shook the city to the core.


UNIDENTIFIED CROWD #1: (Chanting) Manchester, Manchester, Manchester.

NELSON: They chanted their city's name and waved posters with I heart MCR, an abbreviation for Manchester. The city's lord mayor, Eddy Newman, spoke to what many here were feeling.


EDDY NEWMAN: 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.


UNIDENTIFIED CROWD #2: (Chanting in foreign language).

NELSON: One of those communities, the Sikhs, arrived with flowers and offered religious blessings to applause, including from Elizabeth Littlewood.

ELIZABETH LITTLEWOOD: We are different cultures, different religions, different beliefs. But we are all coming together because yeah, we don't want this in our city. We don't want - no.

NELSON: She looked as if she was about to cry.

E. LITTLEWOOD: Children dying last night - they were at a concert. No, that's not what I want in this world. This is not what I want in this city.

NELSON: Her 17-year-old daughter, Siobhan, says it was hard thinking of teenagers being killed at the Manchester Arena last night.

SIOBHAN LITTLEWOOD: You never know where it's going to happen next, which was what last night showed, and it's just how these things will happen and you can't necessarily stop them sometimes.

NELSON: Nineteen-year-old Alex Bernini shared his resignation. He and his 17-year-old girlfriend were at the concert when they said they heard the bomb go off. At first they thought the sound system had malfunctioned.

ALEX BERNINI: Obviously you have no idea. And with everyone panicked around you, that's what affects you. It wasn't essentially the sound. It were everyone running and screaming.

NELSON: Bernini says he and his girlfriend managed to get out a back door and return to their hotel room across the street. But they were too anxious to sleep and went downstairs where many more concert goers were gathering.

BERNINI: Everyone just panicking - what they could do. And they took - they just took refuge in our lobby in the hotel - people just lying on chairs, using towels as blankets, just trying to stay off the street, stay away from the windows because you just never know.

NELSON: He says he feels fortunate to have come through unscathed. So does Andy Birch of North Wales, whose two teenage daughters were at the concert. He says he and his wife had returned to the arena to pick the girls up when the bomb went off.

ANDY BIRCH: I - it's - for me, it's a blur. I know my wife saw just destruction and the aftermath. And it's really upset her. It's, you know - I think it's going to probably play on her more over the next few days.

NELSON: Birch says he keeps thinking about the frantic parents whose children are still missing.

BIRCH: You just try your best as a parent to protect them. But you - you know, how much of a safety concern can you keep around them all their life? We're just glad that our girls were there and they knew we were there.

NELSON: Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Manchester. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.