Blog: Carys Crow

After being caught up in the Manchester Arena attack the young vocalist from Otley (right) couldn’t listen to music, let alone sing. Now she’s supporting PP Arnold at The Wardrobe, Leeds, 16 Oct

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22 May 2017 was a night that changed thousands of lives forever. And 22 never got to make it back to their families. Although I escaped physically unharmed, the mental scarring was something I thought I’d never have to experience, but I did and I still do.

My tickets to Ariana Grande were a Christmas present from my mum and stepdad. The tickets were hidden inside the Dangerous Woman CD. I opened it ready to put it on and out dropped the tickets with a piece of paper written “For you and a friend”. I cried with joy and felt so extremely lucky to get to see my favourite artist at one of the best arenas in the country. I took my best friend, Ella (pictured left, arriving at the gig).

My mum and stepdad drove us that night and parked the car in the car park next to the arena and we gave them hugs goodbye and they asked us to meet them back there at the end of the concert.

We went into the arena through the foyer and walked round in circles trying to find our seats. Block 103. We waited with such anticipation for Ariana to come on through the support acts but when the countdown came on the arena went crazy and the echoes of the cheering was spine-tingling. The night was beautiful, and the sound of everyone’s voices singing along to every single word was something I will never forget.

But then it got to 10:25 and I asked Ella if we should leave a little early to beat the rush. We didn’t realise Dangerous Woman was the last song and we were too late – the lights came on and we were just chatting about how amazing it was and Ella thanked me for taking her. Then it happened. The loud echoes of it ricocheted off the walls and felt like it ricocheted through my heart. Everyone froze, for a matter of seconds but what felt like forever, and then came the screams and the crowds split into two, in opposite directions. Ella grabbed my hand and we ran but someone closed the doors where we tried to get out of our block and we ended up at the bottom of a pileup. Eventually they were opened and I just remember seeing blood all over the floor and girls outside on the floor screaming. I felt helpless. Ella called her mum as we were halfway down the stairs – that’s when the emergency services started streaming in. Even now I can still hear Ella’s voice saying “Mummy, Mummy, I love you” and the sound of the sirens and the screaming.

We didn’t get home until two in the morning. I got in the shower as soon as I got home to try and wash it all away; I put the news on my TV whilst I lay in bed hoping I would wake up from what was one hell of an awful dream. But I didn’t wake up from this nightmare.

The reality of terrorism: it was frightening and I still get scared going to big venues or famous cities but we cannot live in fear. Thousands of lives were changed that night, my mental health was on the brink and the “what ifs” changed me. It should have been me, it should have been me – that changed me.

I didn’t listen to music for weeks after. It didn’t seem right when people lost their lives loving it. But months later I’m now supporting the wonderfully talented PP Arnold at the Wardrobe in Leeds. A capacity of 400, nowhere near as big as Manchester Arena, but I hope one day, despite it all, I go back there to perform for thousands of people and inspire them with music the way Ariana did. I’d use fame for all the right reasons, to get my messages of love out into the world. To tell the world, we are not scared, we are one and we are Manchester.

I realised that night that this stuff happens and it can happen at any time and I will always hope that my family and friends are never in the wrong place at the wrong time. We cannot predict such atrocities so what’s the point in living in fear? So much love was spread, so many hands of friendship. On the night we had two young girls waiting for their grandad in our car to keep them safe. I made a lifelong friend, Beth, and I cannot begin to explain how important my family and friends have been to me since. I also made a friend at the One Love concert; the hands of Manchester are hands on our hearts. The brutality of terrorism is real, but, it will not win. Don’t go forward in anger, love spreads.

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