After the deadly terror attack at Ariana Grande’s Manchester Arena concert on Monday night, which killed 22 and injured 59, local parents tell Rolling Stone that they have vowed to not let the suicide bomber’s brutal act stop them from allowing their children to live “full and happy lives.” Despite being “terrified” after the tragedy, area mothers and fathers say that they “hope” they would never allow that to stop them from giving their children freedom to attend concerts in the future.
Aliana Smeger is the mother of Lukas, a 15-year-old who was at the Ariana Grande concert, and she tells Rolling Stone it was the “worst few minutes of her life” when she heard the bang and couldn’t see her son, who was inside the MEN Arena after watching the Ariana Grande show.
“I told him to leave right on the end, because I didn’t want to get held up in the traffic. But now I’m so glad he ignored me,” she says. “He was delayed by a few minutes as he went to the toilet on the way out, those few minutes ultimately saved his life. I have never felt fear like it in my life. I was by my car waiting for him when I heard the bang.”
Like many others, Smeger first thought that bang might be fireworks at the end of the show – until she saw other parents running, and heard the screams and panic.
“He was shielded from the worst of it. He got to me pretty fast, thank goodness, because I think I would have had a heart attack if he hadn’t, and I whisked him away,” Smeger says. “But I’d like to think I wouldn’t let this stop me from allowing him to go again. In reality, I’d probably want to go with him, but it’s not cool for your mum to tag along when you’re 15, is it? But there would be a lot more rules in place: He would have to check in with me regularly; he would have to leave way before the end – maybe two or three songs early and I would always be there to pick him up.”
“It’s hard enough to let your kids to grow up without this on top,” she continues. “You can’t let them win.”
John Jestoe, a father whose nephew, Elliot, was at the concert and was hit by shrapnel in the attack, feels that young people should be taught terror drills in schools as the threats continue to ramp up.
“These monsters are getting bigger and bigger,” Jestoe tells Rolling Stone. “It’s a sad fact that this will happen again; this isn’t stopping any time soon. I would let my son, 14, and daughter, 12, go to a concert again – because I don’t think they should win. But I would feel a lot more confident if terror drills were taught about what to do in an emergency. Elliot said people were just running around like headless chickens. That causes more panic, more mayhem, more injuries.”
That said, the Manchester Arena announcer has been praised for remaining calm and allaying fears in the arena at the time of the bombing to stop a stampede. But others in the music industry feel the landscape has been changed forever as a result of these events, and many wonder how concerts can continue with anxiety over safety on many fans’ minds.
Despite the United Kingdom elevating its threat level to “critical” – its highest level, for the first time in a decade – and Prime Minister Theresa May’s warning that a “further attack may be imminent,” artists have soldiered on with their U.K. touring obligations.
British boy band Take That were due to perform at the Manchester Arena on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (May 25th-27th), but the shows have been postponed in the wake of the tragedy. Ariana Grande canceled seven upcoming dates on the European leg of her tour following the Manchester terror attack. The pop singer is expected to resume her trek June 7th in Paris with subsequent South America, Southeast Asia and Australia runs. After the attack, Grande wrote via Twitter: “Broken. From the bottom of my heart, I am so sorry. I don’t have words.”
Grande’s manager, Scooter Braun, posted a string of emotional tweets about the Manchester terror attack late Wednesday. “I will choose to live than to be afraid,” he wrote. In an act of resilience per Braun’s words, a Grande fan campaign since the attack catapulted her plaintive 2015 dance hit “One Last Time” to Number One on the United Kingdom’s iTunes chart, per NME. According to local Manchester sources, the song, off her second LP My Everything, was one of the last songs Grande played before the explosions sounded.
BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend Festival in Hull, England will also continue this weekend with increased security, TMZ reports. The event is expected to draw 50,000 fans, many in the same demographic as those targeted in the Manchester attack; Katy Perry, Lorde, Lana Del Rey, Haim and Kings of Leon are among the acts who will play Big Weekend.
After the Bataclan massacre in Paris in November 2015, the ISIS terror cell released a statement that they had targeted the venue as “music concerts were packed with polytheists” and were displays of “fornication and debauchery.”
Following that attack, the world’s two biggest concert promoters, Live Nation and AEG, stated they had implemented heightened security procedures in all their venues around the world but, as the statement from Live Nation read, “because of the sensitive nature of these protocols, we cannot elaborate further on the specific details.”
Phil Bowdery, chairman of the Concert Promoters Association, tells Rolling Stone: “We are deeply shocked and saddened by the senseless attack at the Ariana Grande concert. This is heartbreaking news and our thoughts and love are with everyone in Manchester at this time – in particular those that lost their lives or were affected by this devastating incident and their families and friends.
“All members of the Concert Promoters Association will continue to work with venues, police, stewarding companies and the relevant authorities and it is our understanding that outside of the Manchester Arena and the Ariana Grande tour,” Bowdery continues, “all other planned concerts and events will go ahead, as advertised, unless ticket holders are directly advised to the contrary. Fans should check with venues direct for specific updates.”
But one concert promoter, David Schwester, says he fears the Ariana Grande tragedy will have a “ripple effect” on the entertainment industry.
“Tickets will sell less and parents will not want their kids going to these shows for a while,” he tells Rolling Stone. “We are gearing up to summer festival season now, these concertgoers come with camping gear and huge bags. Checking everything is not logistically possible for thousands of attendees. Festival goers will have to concede they are taking a risk and make a decision for themselves. Security will be upped to keep an eye and respond if necessary, but it is a physical impossibility to stop these people by searching every single one of the 60,000-odd fans who attend.”
Millie Black, another Manchester-area mom, did not have a child caught up in the incident. While she’s furious about the tragedy, she is steadfast that “this generation cannot live in anger or fear of these idiots.”
“These sickos targeted mainly young girls because they hate what they stand for here,” she tells Rolling Stone. “They want girls to be silent and do as they’re told. This attack was directed at our children. I think the tide will turn on this one. It is one thing to attack our cities, but to attack our children is a step too far. It is sick. I don’t want my girl to grow up and live a half life because of some idiots. We have to pull our socks up, be British and get on.”