Bataclan survivor offers words of hope to those affected by the Manchester attack

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Amy Swales
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Details are still emerging of the 22 victims of the terrorist attack in Manchester, of the children, teenagers and adults whose lives were cut short when a suicide bomber detonated his device in the foyer of Manchester Arena on Monday night (22 May).

At last count, a further 116 people were reported injured, many seriously, and countless concert-goers will struggle to process the traumatising experience for years to come.

Now a survivor of 2015’s terrorist attack in Paris has penned an open letter to offer words of hope to the many witnesses, friends and family members who might feel lost in the coming days.

Writing in The Guardian, music journalist Kelly Le Guen recalls how on the night of 13 November, gun-wielding terrorists stormed an Eagles of Death Metal gig in the Bataclan music venue, killing 89 people.

She describes how, terrified, she and others barricaded themselves in a dressing room they’d found, refusing to move even when the police tried to get in – and how that decision saved their lives because the ‘policeman’ turned out to be one of the gunmen.

However despite the shocking, disturbing and traumatic nature of such an experience, in a moving essay Le Guen insists that there is hope for those affected by such attacks.

She writes: “In the immediate days after the Paris attacks, people were scared, sad, angry. Just like now. Which is, of course, totally comprehensible.

“But I want to tell you something that may seem hard to believe right now: it gets better.”

She goes to say that while it would be tempting, and understandable, to never put herself in a concert situation again, she has attended gigs since.

“I know that a lot of the survivors of the Manchester atrocity will feel this event will shape their whole lives from now on. That’s something I thought would happen to me too, at first. But then I decided that it would not.

“Music is my passion. It has been for many years, and I can’t imagine living without it […] It was absolutely impossible to kick that part of my life away after the attack. So I resolutely went to the first gig I had scheduled that wasn’t cancelled. And I’ve been to a lot more since, including at the Bataclan.

“Why? Because I love the venue, and I won’t let anyone take that away from me [...] hang on to the things you love and you live for. You want to kick away the bad stuff, not the good.”

She finishes by saying: “Focus on the good things, and surround yourself with good people.

“I know it might seem impossible to go to another live gig or concert if you experienced the terror of hearing the bomb at close range, or seeing things nobody should ever see. But I promise, if you manage to overcome your fear one day (and believe me that is possible), you have the potential to be the happiest person […] Even if it seems hard, it’s worth fighting for.”

The Manchester blast took place as crowds were streaming out following the end of an Ariana Grande concert. Given the former child star’s fan base, many of the attendees were young children and teenagers whose parents had accompanied them or were waiting to pick them up.

Two of the victims, Alison Howe, 45, and Lisa Lees, 47, were waiting in the foyer to pick up their daughters, while the youngest named victim, Saffie Rose Roussos, was just eight years old and was at the concert with her mum and sister, who were injured in the explosion.

Bereavement and charity organisations have acknowledged the fact that parents, relatives and teachers across the UK are facing difficult, upsetting conversations with the children in their care, and many have issued guidance, while the BBC collated advice from professionals on how to talk about terrorist attacks with children.

Read her letter in full here.

Images: Rex Features


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Amy Swales

Amy Swales is a freelance writer who likes to eat, drink and talk about her dog. She will continue to plunder her own life and the lives of her loved ones for material in the name of comedy, catharsis and getting pictures of her dog on the internet.