A year ago on Tuesday, Gaynor Taylor and husband Michael were waiting in the foyer of Manchester Arena to pick up daughter Grace from the Ariana Grande concert.
Grace, now 16, avoided the bomb blast that killed 22.
But Gaynor and Michael, of Dukinfield, in Tameside, were in its path. Gaynor, 48, suffered terrible injuries. Michael, 60, was left partially deaf.
Grace told her mum she feels guilty they were hurt, not her. Here, Gaynor responds..
My darling Grace,
I know you feel guilty about what happened that horrific night on May 22. I know you feel guilty that me and your dad were in the foyer waiting for you and suffered the full brunt of the blast.
But I want to tell you, my darling little girl, that nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, I am forever grateful that it was me rather than you in that foyer, that it’s me who suffered the awful injuries and who saw the aftermath.
It looked like a war zone. That image will never leave me and I am so thankful that you never had to see what I saw.
The sight, and unforgettably awful sounds, of that night are still vivid but, instead of remembering the moment that destroyed so much, I try to recall the good and happiness beforehand.
I remember driving you and your friend to the concert and you were so excited, singing Ariana Grande songs.
We dropped you off in the foyer and told you the spot next to the merchandise stall where I’d wait when you got out.
You’d put on your new Ariana hoodie from one of the stalls. I remember you saying you were so excited you felt sick.
Once we made sure you were OK, me and your dad had a meal in Manchester city centre then, later, I popped in to pick you up while he waited in the car.
It was so busy. All the mums were chatting, some parents were dancing. Other mums were taking little girls out crying because they didn’t want to leave the concert before the end. I look back and think, “Thank God they left early”.
Then, around 10.20pm, I felt a tap on my shoulder and there was your dad. He’d come in to see if I was OK.
I wish he had stayed in the car because, the next minute, it was total carnage.
It was a noise I’d never heard before, so sharp, a sudden bang. I knew it was a bomb straight away. I felt an intense heat and flames flicking around my neck.
Your dad had been blasted away from me but I could see him lying unconscious with his eyes open.
I saw his eyes fix on me. I thought, “He’s dead”.
As you know, Dad is a big 6ft fella and with all my might I pushed him up, shouting, “Michael, Michael!”. I was desperate for him to come round and eventually he did. Then I looked around. I don’t have words to describe what I saw.
It was as if time had stood still. My brain could not absorb what I was seeing.
I am just so thankful that you never saw what I did, Grace, and you don’t suffer the same terrible flashbacks.
My neck felt really hot and my legs were really cold. I knew something was wrong but all I could think about was you and how I was going to find you.
I was hysterical, screaming your name. I thought, “If I scream loud enough, she’ll hear me”.
All I could do was remind myself you had front row seats and hope desperately it meant you weren’t near the blast.
I thought another bomb was going off. I was screaming to your dad that we had to get out. The next 45 minutes were the longest of my life. All the phones were down, we had no idea where you were.
I was frantic. Then a woman who helped you found my number in your phone and rang me to tell me you were safe at the cathedral.
Seeing you and hugging you in that moment felt unreal, it was like being in a film. I cried, screamed and hugged you. I was so relieved and you sobbed in my arms. You wouldn’t stop clinging to me.
Once I knew you were safe, I started to realise how bad my injuries were. At that moment I turned to your dad and said, “Michael, I really hurt”. And he said, “I know”.
He rushed us to Tameside Hospital, where I was told by doctors I am the luckiest person to be alive.
Shrapnel had hit my neck, causing burns that spread to my face. It also pierced my hip bone, down my leg and through my back.
If that piece of shrapnel hadn’t hit my hip bone, I’d be dead.
As you know, it’s been a long and slow recovery. I am still in a lot of pain in my leg and I had to get a graft on my neck, because the scar haunted me. It was the first thing I saw when I looked in the mirror and became a constant reminder of what happened to all those people.
It must’ve been a reminder to you, too. But I am so grateful you haven’t had to go through the same pain as me, Grace.
My confidence was completely shattered. We were all set to open my new dog parlour shop before the attack but I couldn’t face it for five months. But I had to make myself get on for you, Grace.
I know you won’t talk to me about that night. You have refused counselling, unlike me and your dad, and you say you are fine whenever I ask you.
I know you didn’t want to come back to the Arena with us, which the counsellors said might help with the trauma.
And it was tough. We saw the spot where your dad stood and there is a huge slab of concrete totally destroyed right next to where his head was. But I think of us as the luckiest people in the world.
I know you have your online forum with some of the other girls there that night and I really hope you find comfort in speaking to them.
Please remember, Grace, that I am so proud of you. What you have achieved since then is fantastic. The day after the attack, I was in surgery and your teachers at school told you to go home.
I can’t begin to imagine what you were going through. But instead of going home, you sat your GCSE textiles exam. I couldn’t believe it when your dad told me. And you got an amazing grade B.
It will take time for us to completely move on. When a party popper went off in a restaurant the other day, I had a panic attack. I could not watch TV or listen to the radio for months, worried the attack would be mentioned.
I know it’s difficult for you in a different way. I am constantly asking if you are OK.
It worries me that you won’t talk to me. But I hope one day you’ll be ready. I have all the helplines at the ready. I’m worried that you’re trying to be brave.
Please believe me when I tell you: nobody can rationalise something like this. But also it has made me realise how lucky we are, as a family, to have each other and that we love each other.
That’s what we have to think to keep us going. We’ve just got to get on with our lives. If we don’t, then the terrorists win. And we must never let them win.
Source: Read Full Article