Lancaster staff and students witness Manchester explosion

    Image courtesy of Matthew Hartley on Flikcr

    This article includes violent imagery and death.

    Lancaster staff and students were in attendance last night at the concert that resulted in multiple deaths and casualties.

    Manchester, the UK, and the rest of the world were shaken by last nights events when an explosion rocked the Manchester Arena at the end of an Ariana Grande concert.

    The event, held in Europe’s largest indoor arena, was just ending when what is now being described as a suicide bomber walked in to the arena exit close to Victoria station and set off an improvised explosive device filled with shrapnel. Witnesses reported hearing two ‘loud bangs’ as panic swept through the arena. Video footage shows families, children and teens screaming as they tried to exit the building in a sea of pink balloons.

    Police have confirmed the deaths of 22 people, including children, making this the biggest terrorist attack on British soil since the July 7th attacks in 2005 which left 52 people dead. Another 59 have been seriously injured, and many have been separated from family and friends in the chaos. Social media, specifically twitter, was flooded with calls looking for individuals. It was also filled with messages of support, offers of housing and food. Sikh temples and hotels offered refugee and housed children separated from families, and many taxi drivers waived fees.

    Head of the Linguistics department Elena Semino was in attendance with her husband, also a professor at Lancaster, and daughter. She told the Guardian “My husband and I were standing against the wall, luckily, and all of a sudden there was this thing. I can’t even describe it. There was this heat on my neck and when I looked up there were bodies everywhere.” The family is safe with only minor injuries, Dr. Semino clarified on Twitter.

    Lancaster student Siri Hampapur was at the event, and said “Words can’t describe what it was like to be in the Manchester Arena last night. Very grateful to be alive. Still struggling to process it”.

    Student’s Union VP (Welfare and Community) David Whitlock told SCAN “Terrorist attacks such as this, wherever they happen in the world, are always shocking and upsetting but when a tragedy like this happens so close to home it’s inevitable that people will feel the emotional effects more strongly than they may have previously experienced. As a Union we stand in support of the families directly affected and with the City of Manchester whose emergency services and citizens have pulled together at this difficult time. If you have been affected by last night’s events support is available within the institution.  Contact your College Wellbeing Advisor or come to the Students’ Union where support is available.”

    Two vigils have been planned in Lancaster, one in town at Dalton Square at 6:45pm today, the 23rd of May. There will be a vigil on campus in the Chaplaincy tomorrow at 5pm. Details for both can be found on Facebook.

    Those affected by the attack are in the hearts and minds of all of us at SCAN. Manchester, and this country, are too strong to be divided by hate.