Column: Strangers’ kindness outshines our callous foes – 23 May 2017

The news of last night’s Manchester Arena terror attack forced me into a last-minute rewrite of my column for the next edition of the St Mark’s Church Messenger magazine. You can read it in advance of its 4 June publication below.

This June edition of the Messenger is my first whilst fully in charge of the editorial reins. I am grateful to the rest of the team for their work towards it – particularly David Price who’s shown me the ropes – and apologise to Dez and Margot for leaving little time for page-layout.

I was meant to be using this column by way of an introduction to me — but that can be condensed: Journalism student, from Berkshire, comes to the 10am. Any more than that would seem dreadfully self-centred, given the events of the last 24 hours.

I am writing on 23 May. The breaking news of the Manchester Arena bombing sent me to bed at midnight and was still unfolding as the 6am pips woke me up. The deadliest terrorist act since London twelve years ago, it was doubly painful for Manchester: four years to the day after one of its sons, fusilier Lee Rigby, was brutally murdered.

But then, as today, the kindness of strangers has outshone the callousness of foes.

In Woolwich in 2013, it was 48-year-old Ingrid Loyau-Kennetto who persuaded the soldier’s murderers to hand over their weapons. The unassuming Cub Scout leader told reporters: “I thought I had better start talking to him before he starts attacking somebody else.”

Proof, there, that not all heroes wear capes.

Today has been filled with similar stories of humility, generosity, and love. The woman who walked 50 frantic teens to a hotel, to keep them from danger. The café staff who gave away hundreds of sandwiches, to feed emergency service heroes. The Mancunians who opened their own front doors, to provide shelter to those caught up in it all.

Then there were the Muslim taxi drivers who waived their fares, helping stranded concert-goers get home. “Use my drivers as an example,” said Sam Arshad, the manager of Street Cars Manchester: “Islam is about helping people.”

And the man who put £100 behind the bar, at a pub near the Manchester Royal Infirmary, “because people working shifts after a bombing shouldn’t buy their own drinks”. His online donations page has gone on to raise a further £10,000.

“I’ve never had so many cups of coffee in one day, to be honest,” said Mike Allen, a police community support officer, who’d been on since 7am. “The reaction we’ve had from members of the public and local shops has been overwhelming, really.”

These are the moments when communities prove themselves. May we stand together with Manchester, united.

Andrew Burdett

Andrew Burdett is a twenty-something from Maidenhead in Berkshire, working for ITV News.