Terrorism robs families of sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. But this time, this particular target seems almost unbearably cruel—an explosion at Manchester Arena in Manchester, UK, packed with thousands of teens and tweens and their families for pop star Ariana Grande's concert. At current counts, 22 are confirmed dead, including eight-year-old and 18-year-old girls; 59 others remain hospitalized, including 12 children under the age of 16.
But as with any other unspeakable tragedy (and there are far too many of those, these days), the finest stories are the positive and uplifting ones that surround the horror. The dozens of emergency workers who rushed into the arena to help the injured. The taxi drivers who drove people home or to safer places all night long, for free. The pubs, hotels, places of worship, and homes around Manchester that opened their doors and offered solace, food, and a place to rest. The homeless man who rushed in to calm injured children and care for a dying woman. And the parents, who did what parents all over this globe would do in the face of a tragedy like this: Sacrifice everything for the children they love.
Witness accounts describe the heroism of parents, who raced back into the building or scrambled over arena railings to pull their children to safety. Paula Robinson had just left the nearby train station when she saw crowds of frantic teens escaping the arena. She led nearly 50 of them to safety at the Holiday Inn, posting her contact information over social media and staying with the kids until their loved ones could arrive to be reunited.
There are stories of injured parents who refused treatment themselves so medics could tend to injured children first. The parents won't leave their children's bedside to have their own injuries treated, until they are sure that their children are safe.
Moms and dads still factor heavily among those still #MissinginManchester, including a father and daughter pair, and several moms and dads who may have been waiting in the foyer of the arena to pick up their children when the blast occurred. In fact, one of the most poignant videos from the attack shows people standing and staying in place as the crowds screamed and fleed around them. But you know who they are—they're the parents, who won't leave there without their children, no matter what horror is happening around them.
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That was the story for Louise Reid, who got swept away from her 15-year-old daughter, Patty, in the crowd surge as panicked people rushed the exits. Louise recounted her frantic attempts to wait at the stadium for her daughter until the police and paramedics forced her away, and the unbearable three hours she spent not knowing her daughter's fate, before police were finally able to locate her at a nearby hotel. "How do we go back to normal after this?" she asked a reporter from the New York Times. "The tragedy shows that this can happen anywhere, at any time."
So we may not live in Manchester, and those may not be our loved ones who were in harm's way yesterday. But we know those parents—those parents are just like us. And today, we stand with the parents of Manchester. And hope that there will never come a day when they need to stand with us.