The Manchester Arena terror attack happened on the 22nd May of this year, Nicole Smith tells her story about revisiting the venue six months after the attack.

22 people died including a number of young children during the Manchester attacks. The attacker, ex-University of Salford student Salman Abedi was a suicide bomber who detonated an explosive at 10:31pm on the night of the 22nd.

Nicole Smith, aged 20, from Manchester, attended the Ariana Grande concert with her mum:
“The night of the attack I was with my mum, I was treating her after a tough couple of months and it was a little girly celebration too as it was 2 days after my birthday.”

Nicole and her mother did not see anything but remember the loud bang that shuddered the room and sparked fear into the remaining members of the crowd at the Arena.

“We were still sat in our seats on the floor to wait for the crowds to go so my mum wasn’t pushed, I was talking to a girl sat next to my mum when we heard the loud boom, I looked at my mum and asked her if that was what I thought it was (instantly knowing deep down that it was a bomb), my mum said she thought it was and that’s when we saw the crowds of people running back into the arena screaming. We grabbed our stuff and ran towards the stage to stay away from the crowds.”

Rumours were circulating about what people had just heard, both inside the venue and outside. Many people guessed it was a group of people going in with guns to shoot the crowd, there was a another bomb to be set off, a blown speaker or even a balloon popping by a microphone.

However, reality and fear started to kick in when Nicole had heard a woman hysterical on the phone:
“We heard a woman on the phone saying she saw someone blow up in front of her and we really began to panic. We got outside of the stage area of the arena and that’s when the smell hit us. [pullquote]It was a real putrid smell, like singed hair, faeces and gunpowder. It was “misty” too because of the smoke from the bomb and there was an alarm going off saying “please evacuate the area immediately.[/pullquote]
“The second we saw my dad’s car I ran into it and burst into tears. We saw so many more ambulances and police cars go past on our way home but we knew we were safe and out of there.”

That night will always be a part of Manchester’s history and will be remembered as one of the city’s biggest tragedies.

The people of Manchester relished in the idea of community, shelter, food, a hot drink and clothes were offered to victims the night of the attack.

Nicole Smith before the Little Mix concert

Six months after the attack, Nicole revisited the Arena to see Little Mix live, security procedures were a lot more thorough:

“Going back to the arena on Tuesday night was scary at first. Walking up to it gave me a lot of flashbacks to that night and I was so nervous that whole day before going. Once we hit the security though I felt a whole lot better. The security is very tight, they check through your bags, pulling things out to check, you walk through body scanners like in airports, people are there with the wands to scan people and you have to have a ticket to even get near security. You then go to the doors of the arena where you also get your ticket checked again before entering. Once you’re inside you feel a little safer.”

Once Nicole and her mother passed security checks they were able to enjoy the night a little more knowing they were extra safe:
“We got our merchandise and went down to our seats and got our drinks and snacks at the bar. The show itself was incredible and it reminded me of how much I truly love concerts and brought back that joy and “high” after an amazing show. At times during the show I was a little teary, thinking about the 22 who lost their lives and watching little girls thinking about Saffie Roussos and others.”

Going back to the Manchester Arena was a struggle for Nicole, however, she had a brilliant experience seeing Little Mix and made more positive memories:
“Overall I am so glad I went back and it has given me so much more confidence to return to the arena.”

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