This week in review is coming to you later than last week’s, which was two days late.
Originally I thought this was an ingenious idea. I was going to push each column back a day until we reached Thursday, 8 June – election day. So this one was meant to be sent to my editor on Monday night, for publication on Tuesday.
And then Manchester happened.
I can’t put into words how utterly devastated I am – how utterly devastated all of us at THEGAYUK are – about what happened at Manchester Evening News Arena on Monday night. 22 beautiful, young lights were snuffed out far too early by a hateful “loser,” as US President Donald Trump rightly called him. Twenty-two young girls and boys, women and men, lost their lives because some twisted soul bought into an ideology of hate.
Speaking only for myself, I have wept uncontrollably for those we lost in Manchester – those beautiful, precious children and their equally precious parents who just wanted to see a pop idol sing. I pray to God that anyone and everyone responsible is brought not only to justice, but to His wrath. I hope they burn in Hell.
In the wake of the horrific attack in Manchester, the parties have halted campaigning until at least the weekend. Some have criticised this decision, but I think it wholly right. At the end of the day, we’re all British (except me; I’m American – but I desperately wish I were British). This is a national tragedy, the likes of which we haven’t seen in twelve years, since the 7/7 attacks in 2005. Politics suddenly seems much less important when our children are being killed by terrorist thugs as end leave what was meant to be one of the happiest nights of their lives.
As the contributing political editor for THEGAYUK, I had a decision to make: do I write in defiance of the terrorists, or do I follow suit with our political parties and cease political coverage for the next few days? I’ve grappled with this question all day, and I don’t know that I have the right answer. But I arrived at my answer.
I’m not going to write about politics today.
Instead, I’m going to talk about the victims who have been publicly identified, talk about their lives, and talk about what it is I think makes Britain so goddamn special.
I hope you’ll understand.
Saffie-Rose Roussos was 8. She became separated from her sister and mum – who at the time I’m writing this is still in hospital and unaware her daughter has died – and was killed in the terrorist attack. According to the Telegraph, her headteacher, Chris Upton said “Saffie was simply a beautiful little girl in every aspect of the word. She was loved by everyone.” She was “unassuming, with a creative flair,” he said, and “she was loved by everyone and her warmth and kindness will be remembered fondly.”
Georgina Callander was 18. Her mother, Leslie, was the first to lay a flower at Tuesday’s vigil in Manchester’s Albert Square. A self-proclaimed “Arianator” (the nickname for those in the Ariana Grande fandom), Georgina was seeing her idol for at least the second time. She was also an avid fan of Once Upon a Time, a television show about fairy tale characters. Several of the cast members, including Rebecca Mader (who played the Wicked Witch of the West) and Emelie de Ravin (who played Belle) tweeted condolences, remembering Georgina. (As a fellow Oncer, Georgina holds a special place in my heart, and I tweeted at series creator Adam Horowitz asking that, as another fan requested, the first episode of series 7 be dedicated in her honour.)
Kelly Brewster was 32. She had just put the deposit on a house with her partner, intent on building a life with him and his daughter. According to the Daily Mail, she shielded her young niece, Hollie, from the shrapnel coming from the nail bomb. Hollie survived thanks to her aunt’s courage, as did Kelly’s sister – Hollie’s mum. The Daily Mail spoke to the father of Kelly’s partner, Ian, who said he is ‘absolutely distraught.’
Alison Howe and Leslie Lees were waiting for their daughters to come out of the concert when they were killed. Both were from Royton, Oldham according to the Mirror. “They took a caring beautiful mum and step mother away from us all she was amazing to us x love you loads Alison Howe xx,” her stepson Jordan Howe posted on Facebook – again, according to the Mirror, who also reports that around the same time Leslie’s brother said she was “gone, but never ever forgotten.” These two mums were trying to collect their daughters from a pop concert. That’s it.
These are the victims, as of 3:33 GMT on 24 May, I know of. More will surely be made known by the time this is published. (ed note: RIP to Martyn Hett)
Their stories are equally worth telling. All 22 (and, God forbid, counting) souls’ stories are worth telling. It would be my honour to write them all.
I may never get that chance, but what I have now is a chance to use my platform as a contributing editor of this magazine and a writer for other British outlets to say this: they will not have died in vain. Their stories will be told, and their loss will redouble our efforts to confront the scourge of extremism within our own borders and abroad – that evil ideology, irrespective of religion, that seeks to divide us. The terrorists won a battle; they will not win the war.
Britain is at its best when it is united. It is what I love most about this country – a country that, no matter who you are or where you’re from can come together over a cup of tea. If that sounds quaint, it is, but it’s also honest – as the assassinated Labour MP Jo Cox said, we have more that unites us than divides us.
Britain is a beautiful, resilient country that will not be cowed by terrorists. No matter our sexuality, our race, our religion – no matter anything – we will always come together. The Mancunians showed us that last night, offering their houses to strangers and their taxi rides free of charge. They took the stranger in. Why? Because they’re British, and their neighbours were in need. That’s what we do in this country.
And though I’m American, I know a thing or two about the British spirit. I know how unbreakable it is. Times are scary, and times are tough. We’ve suffered devastating losses. But as long as we stand together, united, we cannot be defeated.
I’ll get back to politics later this week. I have an interview with Labour MP Peter Kyle that’s not to be missed and my usual witty observations. In the meantime, I ask that you pray for Manchester – or, if you’re of no faith, keep them in your thoughts. After all…
We are all Mancunians this week.
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