PE expat tells of Manchester near miss

Police officers relocate floral tributes in St Ann’s Square in Manchester laid as a mark of respect to those in killed and injured following a deadly terror attack at the concert at the Manchester Arena the night before
Picture: Ben Stansall / AFP Photo

Mom of young daughters grateful concert tickets were sold out

Two Port Elizabeth brothers now living in Britain have described the sombre atmosphere across Manchester yesterday in the wake of the horrific bomb blast which claimed the lives of 22 people on Monday night.

And a Lorraine woman’s daughter, who lives in Southport, 35km from Manchester, was counting her lucky stars that the tickets for the Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena were sold out when she tried to get some to take her two young daughters, aged 4 and 7, to see her.

“I am so thankful they were sold out,” Samantha Gambale, 37, who moved to the UK in March last year, said.

“I also wanted to get tickets for the Little Mix concert in July in Manchester, but now I definitely won’t.

“Everybody who was looking for tickets for the concert is now saying they won’t go.

“The parents at my daughters’ school are also cancelling their tickets for the upcoming festivals in the North West, including the Glastonbury Festival.”

Speaking from his home in Prestwich, which is only a 10-minute drive from Manchester’s city centre, former Central resident Sean Flegg said shocked residents and distraught families had begun picking up the pieces after the devastating attack.

“To think people had just come out from a concert where they had enjoyed themselves, and their lives got taken – it’s a feeling of sombreness all around,” Flegg said.

A large area around the arena had been cordoned off as police conducted their investigations and the gruesome job of identifying the victims, he said.

“My wife, Wendy, and I have been to numerous concerts, and we have visited the Manchester Arena a few times.

“Our hearts go out to the families of the victims and those injured.”

A computing, science and physical education teacher at Failsworth Academy, Flegg said he had been marking papers when he heard sirens and a helicopter in the area.

“Some pupils had to be calmed down [yesterday] as they were traumatised by what had transpired.”

Flegg said Manchester residents had shown amazing resilience, carrying on as normal despite the horror that shook the city.

His brother, Brad, formerly of Kamma Heights and living in the UK since 2011, said he had been alerted to the attack by family members in Port Elizabeth, who had phoned to find out if they were OK.

Brad lives in Bolton, about 20km from Manchester.

He said his wife had attended an Ed Sheeran concert at the Manchester Arena last year.

“To know that people close to me had been to that very place previously is frightening because it could have happened then,” Brad said.

“You cannot live your life in fear, but the fact of the matter is that it’s a very real thing that we face.

“To say that you’ve gone there before and a few months later a bomb goes off is just mind-boggling.”

Mark Rowley, 36, who left Woodridge College in 1998 and lives in Manchester, said he hoped the city pulled together.

“I think a lot of people are angry and will want justice for all those who lost their lives or were injured.

“It’s really a sad day for Manchester,” Rowley said.

Meanwhile, chants of “Manchester! Manchester!” rang out yesterday as thousands gathered for a multi-faith vigil in the city centre to remember the victims of the deadly suicide attack claimed by the Islamic State group.

Striking a note of defiance, people massed outside the city’s Victorian town hall to pray for the dead and injured. British and English flags at the town hall flew at half-mast

The vigil was attended by Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Sikh leaders, and drew on the strength of a city that is synonymous with the Industrial Revolution, music and its two world-famous football teams.

“Today is a day that we all hoped and prayed we would not ever see,” Manchester police chief Ian Hopkins told the crowd.

“I cannot begin to imagine how anyone could carry out such an unthinkable act.

“We must all stand together and not let the terrorists defeat us.

“We must all live in harmony with each other as we stand together to defeat terrorism.”

Poet Tony Walsh recalled the city’s history in a poem entitled This is the Place, which drew huge cheers as he recounted the gritty attitude that made the city a heartland of industrial and cultural creativity.

After a minute’s silence was held to remember the victims, the chants of “Manchester! Manchester!” rolled around the crowd.

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