I was in the car with my friend on the way to the mall on the night of May 22, 2017. About halfway there, my phone beeped with a notification from CNN - loud explosions had been reported at an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena in the UK. My head began to spin. I hoped that it wasn't deadly, that it wasn't a bomb, but rather a loud noise that someone had misinterpreted. I kept tabs on what was happening while my friend and I shopped. Sadly, there was no misinterpretation.
A bomb had gone off outside of the arena. In an apparent terrorist attack, 23 people lost their lives and another 116 were wounded. I have not been able to get the victims out of my head. The grief that their families and friends are feeling, the pain of losing a child, or the agony of losing a parent. I cannot fathom what would compel a person to commit such an atrocity. I have been praying for all those affected, for the city of Manchester, and the people of the UK. Another thought that I have not been able to get out of my head is the fact that it could have been me at that concert - it could have been anyone. As a female teenager and a lover of pop music, this attack felt personal. It was an attack on my way of life and my culture.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge fan of pop music. I jam out to One Direction, Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes, the Chainsmokers, and Ariana Grande all of the time. In my car I play Top 40 radio stations. I have been to arena shows of big name artists and have seen One Direction, Taylor Swift, and Ariana Grande. I have screamed when one of my favorite artists took the stage and lost my voice belting out the words to pop songs. My mom has waited outside venues to pick me up after the concerts. I have been in the exact situation as everyone at Ariana Grande's concert on May 22 before the bombing, and my mom has been in the exact situation many of the parents of those who died in the bombing before the bomb went off. If a terrorist had decided to bomb the Allstate Arena or Soldier Field instead of the Manchester Arena, my mom or I could have died.
To say I am not scared after this attack would be a lie. To say that I will not be more vigilant when I go to concerts now would also be a lie. But I am not going to let this fear destroy me, I am going to live my life the same way I always have. I am going to enjoy spending time with my friends, seeing my favorite artists, and having the time of my life at concerts. I am not going to let hate win, because it could have been anyone.
I am continuing to pray for the people affected. I am continuing to pray for the world.