Reflections of Love: In the wake of Manchester bombing…

I found out about the tragic bombing in Manchester from fellow concert-lover and EST. 1997 writer Andrew, and I was immediately shaken by the news. It was still a fresh story and at the time, we didn’t know what exactly happened but I feared the worst: terrorism. Of course, it would still have been a tragic loss of life if the explosion was due to some sort of equipment malfunction in the arena. However, we have now come to learn that it wasn’t. It was a premeditated bombing; an attack on love and happiness, and likely, on youth, femininity and homosexuality as well.

Let’s be honest, here: it was an Ariana Grande concert. We can divide the crowd into 3 groups: young girls, young gays, and their parents or boyfriends who accompanied them to the show. Perhaps the bomber didn’t consider this; perhaps he just chose any random American act playing on the day that was convenient for him. Yet, barely one year after the attack on the Pulse Nightclub – a gay venue in Orlando, Florida (Grande’s home state), such a horrific attack on a very similar group of people really hit home once again, but this time, even more.

Don’t get me wrong, I was shaken by the Pulse attack. What if it had been in one of New York’s many gay bars and I had been there? (In fact, I had been to Pulse on a visit to Orlando a couple years prior). Still, it did not affect me quite like the Manchester bombing has, and there are a few reasons why, I gather…

Nothing in this world makes me happier than going to a concert by one of my favorite artists. I don’t particularly like Ariana Grande… but if her audience was targeted for who they are, then my favorite artists (Destiny’s Child, Mariah, Janet) have audiences that are similarly targetable. To add to that, one of the victims was a fellow Lambily member, Martyn Hett. I can’t say I knew him personally, but he had interacted with us on the EST. 1997 social media accounts, and one of my close Lambily friends from Manchester was good friends with him as well. As all the events unfolded, I found myself obsessed with knowing if Martyn was okay from the moment his friends posted about him being missing on the night of the show.

Yesterday morning, I woke up, immediately checked my Twitter… and I read the horrible news. I broke down into tears. Tears for someone I never knew, but yet I felt so akin too. He loved Mariah Carey just as much as I did. He too was a talented writer and owned his own website. He too traveled just to go to concerts, and it seemed, went to many. As the day went by, I thought of Martyn and the other victims. I read about him, and about them. I learned that Martyn loved his mother dearly and even managed to make his mother’s knitting business into a viral sensation. This was yet another way I felt a connection to Martyn; my mother is a business owner as well and of course, I too love her dearly. My heart broke for him, and for his family and friends. At the same time, I was hit with yet another painful reminder of just how short life is, how important it is to live every moment to the fullest and be grateful for life.

Concerts are a place where people can come together to share their love of music and life, and celebrate. Concerts are a place where new friends can be made and old friends can strengthen their everlasting bonds. Concerts are a place where people can forget about their problems for a few short hours and revel in musical bliss. Like gay bars are for the LGBTQ community, concerts are a safe space of sorts. These terrorists violated that, and while there is no solace in revenge or anger, there is indeed solace in unity, and strength.

No doubt, what they want for us to do, is to fear going to another concert ever again. That’s why it’s called terrorism; they inflict terror and their success is gauged off of how much of it they have inflicted upon their targets. The only way for us to stand up to them, is to never back down and love in the face of their hatred. I will never give up my safe space; my happy place. In the words of Mariah Carey, who so beautifully honored Martyn today, “they can try, but they can’t take that away from me.”

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