Many Children Are Among The Dead In Manchester Arena Suicide Attack

May 23, 2017
Originally published on May 23, 2017 10:15 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Last night, we saw what appears to be the deadliest terror attack in Britain since 2005. An attacker set off a bomb at a Manchester concert leaving more than 22 people dead and over 50 people injured. British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke to the nation earlier today talking about some of the heroes, emergency responders and also residents who took in terrified concertgoers who had gotten separated from their families and friends.

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THERESA MAY: For they are the images that embody the spirit of Manchester and the spirit of Britain, a spirit that through years of conflict and terrorism has never been broken and will never be broken.

GREENE: Now, President Donald Trump, who is on a trip to the Middle East right now, sent his condolences as well.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We cannot stand a moment longer for the slaughter of innocent people. And in today's attack, it was mostly innocent children. The terrorists and extremists and those who give them aid and comfort must be driven out from our society forever.

GREENE: And now just to clarify, we know of 22 people killed at this point. So those are the numbers we have as of now. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is in Manchester this morning. Hi, Soraya.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So you are staying in a hotel where, I gather, many of the concertgoers were staying. You've been talking to some people. What are they saying?

NELSON: Yeah, this hotel is about 300 yards from where the venue is. And so you could see them in the lobby here. You know, there were parents, but there were also a lot of the young concertgoers in the white T-shirts, some of them looking pretty shell shocked. I spoke with one pair of 17-year-olds who are here from Aberdeen. They had flown down to see this concert. They're such big fans. And they were just completely shaken up and just couldn't understand how something like this would happen.

Certainly, the girl was telling me that she just can't see ever going to a concert again. I mean, it was just - you know, they couldn't quite grasp it. And they just looked very pale and just felt very unsafe, you know, that something as positive as this concert would turn into something so negative, which is something that they were really having a hard time with.

GREENE: Yeah, Ariana Grande, who was performing, I mean, she has such a following among young teenagers. I bet it was what they saw as a really special night to listen to a musician they love. We've been hearing all these stories about parents and, you know, being separated from their kids, dropping their kids off for this concert. I understand you were talking to one dad from North Wales.

NELSON: Yes. His name was Andy Birch (ph) - or is Andy Birch. And he was here with his 18 and 15-year-old daughters. He asked that we not use their names. He's trying to protect them. Everyone's very protective at this stage because of what happened. And he was saying that, you know, he had dropped them off. And he and his wife went and had a leisurely dinner. And they were on their way back to pick them up when this explosion occurred.

And, in fact, if they had gotten there a few minutes earlier, they might have actually been in the explosion. He sort of described what happened when he finally was able to get through to his daughter. And I think we have a clip of that.

ANDY BIRCH: My daughter called and she said, where are you? We're by the car park exit. And we found them. We were very fortunate that we got our girls. But it's just heartbreaking seeing people who, you know, have not been as fortunate as us, you know? It's just very sad.

GREENE: Wow, Soraya.

NELSON: Yeah. He became pretty teary-eyed after that. And he just was - he was just completely shaken up. I mean, he, again, he just was counting his blessings that he was able to embrace his daughters not long after this attack occurred. But he actually saw parents who were still waiting for word. A lot of them have actually turned to the Internet.

GREENE: Well, Soraya, we know that children are among the dead. I guess at least two kids have been named. Do we know how young they are?

NELSON: Yeah. Again, a lot of these people are looking for their loved ones on the Internet. And one of those is an 8-year-old girl that's being sought. Her name is Saffie Rose Roussos. She seems to be or appears to be at this point the youngest victim because - she's still missing so it seems unlikely that she might have survived.

GREENE: And we should say there are very preliminary signs that ISIS might be claiming responsibility for this. They did so on one of their official Twitter accounts, although that is all still being confirmed. And we keep hearing how Manchester is showing this pride in recovering from this already. What are you seeing in the city?

NELSON: That a lot of people are coming and bringing sandwiches and pastries and showing their support. I mean, there definitely is a solidarity here and a protectiveness and also a resilience. Even these concertgoers that I spoke to, as shaken up as they were, they just don't want to let ISIS or anyone else sort of take away their life here.

GREENE: Yeah. I can imagine. All right, NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson on the ground in Manchester in the aftermath of that attack last night. Thanks, Soraya.

NELSON: You're welcome, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.