The world is still reeling after last night’s suicide bombing in Manchester, UK, which claimed the lives of 22 concert-goers, and injured upwards of 50 others, at Manchester Arena at the conclusion of an Ariana Grande performance. Among those who witnessed the catastrophe is Michael Gunning, a British swimmer and British National Championships finalist.
Gunning, in an interview with Ari Shapiro of NPR, recounted the following events as he and a friend prepared to leave the arena after Grande finished her final song:
Before the attack “everyone was just so happy, there were so many younger kids just enjoying [themselves]; it was the last thing any of us expected to happen.”
“Ariana Grande finished her last song and the lights went out, so kind of everyone stood up, you know, to get ready to leave. You know, and as we were walking… we heard this massive explosion, this massive noise, and it was about 30 meters away.”
“I wasn’t facing the explosion, but my friend was–and he just, his face–I knew that something was wrong, and suddenly everybody started to run for their life. Climbing over chairs, pushing and shoving, and it never really hit me what had happened until I saw, you know, one of, there was two women, who was absolutely splattered in blood, and at that moment I knew it was life or death.”
“There was 15-year-olds, you know, 14-year-olds as well, that were just, you know, that were asking their mum what was happening, and, you know, in that moment, you just, you’re just so happy that you’re still alive, and you’re just trying to find safety. And, you know, to see all these scenes, and children crying, and, you know–everybody goes to Ariana Grande–there was 13-year-olds to, you know, 30-year-olds, it was such a massive audience, that, it’s just, it was just horrible to see.”
In describing what Manchester feels like today, Gunning said it is “very, very quiet. It just doesn’t feel the same, it’s just so large, everyone just can’t believe it.” And speaking personally, Gunning said “I think it’s going to take a couple of days to actually come to terms with what’s happened, and, you know, I’m sure we will, like London, Paris, we all come together when it matters most.”
Gunning’s full interview with NPR can be found here. Gunning, who is still active in the sport, is a butterfly specialist who has finished as high as third in the 200 fly at the 2016 British Summer Championships with a time of 1:58.33.