Unexpected meeting. 

I haven’t really been writing anything down anywhere near as much lately, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. I have tried to not think about what went on, but, it has been in the news a lot recently, especially as it is 100 days since the attack…. 100 days…. it is hard to believe. One of my colleagues was put forwards tonne interviewed by ITV, by a family he has had a lot of contact with since the arena attack, he was dubious but ended up chatting to the person that would be doing the interview over the phone and it ended up that we went to Cloud 23 in the Hilton, manchester for an interview. That in itself was a little daunting to say the least, we had got ourselves worked up, in every sense, to what we thought we were going to expect, it ended up being very… thought provoking, shall we say and on the day it ended up being a bit upsetting, talk g about it and answering a few questions, but nothing that we couldn’t overcome. Firstly, when I had been made aware of the fact it was almost 100 days, I thought about the people that I know are still in hospital, that I know are still waiting for operations, the people that I cannot even imagine how they are coping without their loved ones, but then I thought to myself, how have I spent the last 100 days, what has changed, has anything changed..? I got a promotion type affair at work, something that I was a little dubious of even considering if I’m honest, but I am glad, in a way that I did, I have been able to throw myself at it and keep myself occupied a little more, in the time where I should perhaps be just sat at home relaxing, but I am enjoying it. I have a couple of books on the go and I am starting to get back into a few hobbies that I was into a few years ago, I’m not sure if this is all directly related, but it is all positive. As it has been the summer holidays, I have managed to spend a lot of time with my wife and daughter, I truly have cherished that time and I know that I have helped to make lasting memories for us all, a little beach time in Whitby, walking in the lakes, picnics by the canal, ice creams…. everywhere, along with a plethora of little things that all add up. I have felt a little bit… alone in a way, a handful of friends that I am in touch with daily, probably haven’t read any of these, but they have helped keeping my mind off a lot of things, chatting nonsense. I have… ‘written off’ a few people as well, but then, I have lots of messages and people passing on thoughts through people that may not directly know me, that is still very humbling, even though I am still in the mindset that I am a nobody in the whole grand scheme of the events that unfolded that night, but the fact I was there, does mean something… if you understand what I mean..?

 I have been in and around Manchester Victoria a lot over the past few weeks, a particularly… interesting moment was when I was stood in pretty much the exact same place as I was in the evening when the bomb went off, just when the thunder and lightening cracked through the skies over Manchester… I have to be honest, it made me jump a little… it was totally out of the blue but the second, third and fourth crack of thunder, I was fine. There was another incident where the announcement for ‘Mr. Sands’ came over the PA system in the station and that took me back to being in the foyer, on my hands and knees… all because a cleaner left a piece of bread in the toaster in the mess room for a little too long. I thought I had pretty much encountered every sort of emotion and ‘trigger’ if you like, that I possibly could… well, you know what thought did. 

Thursday the 7th of September, started off as a normal sort of shift, I ended up at Manchester Victoria for something and noticed there was a heavy police presence. Now, they’ve been setting up the security systems for a little over a week, there’s been numerous officers coming through but this was a bit more than that. There were British Transport police officers and Greater Manchester Police officer within the station, which was odd in itself. Anyway, it transpired that there was an event in at the arena, they way that it was explained to me was that it was for people that were on the night of the 22nd to come and have a look round the arena. I decided that I would change the tasking slightly and we would stay at the station for a while to show a bit of a presence and to provide customer service where needed, from an operational point of view, this was perfect. As the time passed, various groups of people came through the station to go up to the arena, they were escorted by Police officers up through the station, and over to, I assume, the carpark entrance to the arena. There were groups of teenage girls, couples with a child or children, then there was a chap, wearing a suit carrying a bunch of flowers, who, when he came back down was visibly upset and was without the flowers, that struck a bit of a cord with me, not half as much as what was yet to come. 

I was stood at a little gate next to the barriers where I had been letting people in and out that had been to the arena, I had been doing it as I think the level of my customer service was a little higher than a couple of other people that were around, it was obvious who the people were and where they had been, they weren’t fare dodgers and just required a smile and letting out, not the Spanish Inquisition. Anyway, I glanced across the concourse and I immediately recognised a face… and then another, I sort of looked the other way, not fully, just a slight turn of the head to look at my colleague, I couldn’t not look again though, I turned round and one of the ladies had slowed right down and her facial expression had totally changed, she asked, ‘what’s your name?’ I replied, ‘Philip’ and she said ‘yes, it is, do you remember me?’…. of course I do, these two ladies have been in my mind lot for a long time now. I was shocked, a little bit lost for words, We had a quick chat, it was a bit… I don’t want to say awkward, that’s give you an idea that it was a bad experience, it wasn’t, I just… I don’t know, maybe let myself down a bit as I didn’t say the things I have been thinking that I would want to say as I am more than sure I would have got upset. The lady who I spoke to on the phone to pass on that they were ok but had been involved in the bomb, made herself known to me and thanked me. I half explained that I hadn’t chased them down and my reasoning about it, but, seeing them there, in front of me, on their feet made me think that I should have probably contacted them earlier. It was always my intention to get in touch with them, but again, now I think about it, when would have been the ‘appropriate’ time to do so..? They mentioned that it was fate that we bumped into each other in the station, it could well have been, just the same as that night, the small things that we talked about and the things that had some form of ‘connection’ with was something that you’d only read in one of them cheap, brightly coloured, weekly magazines and make yourself think, why have I just wasted my time reading this made up story 😂. 

I have decided that I am going to write them a letter, perhaps explaining things a little more and offering my help and support, if it is needed. 

As they walked away, my colleague could see that I had zoned out quite a lot… in all honesty, I had that tingly sensation that you get in your cheeks just below your eyes when you’re about to cry, I won’t deny it, I was fighting back the tears… I managed to keep a straight face and not leak. We went and got a coffee and sat in the van for a little bit, we chatted about everything else but what had just happened really, it was of course, going round in my mind though. 

I guess you could say that I was a little bit upset, it brought it all back, the time I spent with them specific people mainly but then that spiralled into the whole night. When I had got home and replied to a few work emails and sorted out the taskings for the following day, I decided to pour myself a bit of bourbon, I felt like I needed it, diet or no diet.