Thousands of people gathered in Manchester’s Albert Square on Tuesday for a vigil to honour the 22 people killed and 59 wounded in the terrorist attack at the Manchester Arena.
After a tense day in the city centre, the crowd roared its defiance at terrorism, applauding the emergency services and standing in a minute’s silence to remember those who lost lives. Outside the town hall, Albert Square was packed, with many people spilling out on to neighbouring streets.
In the quiet before the speakers began, a woman from the crowd who shouted, “Fantastic responses by GMP [Greater Manchester police] and all the emergency services,” was greeted by huge applause from both those behind her and the politicians and religious leaders onstage.
The lord mayor of Manchester, Eddy Newman, opened the vigil by reiterating the city’s gratitude to the emergency services, prompting prolonged cheers and applause.
"The people of Manchester will remember the victims forever and we will defy the terrorists by working together to create cohesive, diverse communities that are stronger together," he said. "We are the many, they are the few."
The poet Tony Walsh was also greeted with cheers of approval, performing "This Place", a poem that celebrates the city's radical, diverse roots.
The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Rev David Walker, lit a candle to remember the victims.
“They are the very few but we are the many," he said. "We are Manchester.”
Like many of those gathered in the square, Stephanie Lane, 36, was struggling to blink back tears before the vigil had even started.
“I’ve been in tears most of the day," she said. "They’re just innocent children, innocent families. I’ve got children and you don’t expect it, not in your own city.”
When asked what she made of the city’s response to the attack, she said: “Just take a look around you. It speaks for itself.”
There has been an outpouring of goodwill in the city since Monday night. Harley Clarke, 22, a student at Manchester Metropolitan University, was one of many who went to the scene of the attack in the early hours of Tuesday morning to see if she could help.
“We went down at 1:30 to see if anyone needed a place to stay," she said.
Standing in the heart of the crowd at the vigil, she added: “I just wanted to support Manchester and the people who’ve lost lives. ”
Niamh Worthington, 17, was one of thousands holding “I heart Manchester” signs.
“I just wanted to show support," Niamh said. "My cousin was there last night. She’s 13 and she was with friends. It was a good half an hour before we heard that she was alright.
"I go to college in the city centre and it’s been high tensions, but it’s been nice because everyone’s looking out for each other. There’s a lot of solidarity."
Most of the country’s senior political figures were gathered onstage, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, and home secretary Amber Rudd. They had agreed not to speak.
Farron was the only national political leader to approach the gathered press immediately after the vigil.
“This isn’t a time for politics,” he insisted, before adding: “I’m a Lancastrian and this is my capital city. But I’m a dad and I’m here mostly because an unspeakable thing has happened.”
Manchester’s newly elected mayor Andy Burnham also held back from speaking at the rally. In an interview later with BuzzFeed News, he said: “This has been the darkest of hours for the people of the city but standing there and seeing people there, it felt the right thing to do. The aim of terrorism is to divide, so the best thing is to come together.”
He added: “You look at this tonight and I think as people have begun to take on board what’s happened, people are fighting back and fighting back in the best possible way.”
Long after the vigil had finished, the crowd could still be heard chanting, “Manchester! Manchester! Manchester!”
Emily Dugan is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Emily Dugan at email@example.com.
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