Chocolate Pillow | The Manchester Bombing – A Thank You to the unsung heroes!
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The Manchester Bombing – A Thank You to the unsung heroes!

24 May The Manchester Bombing – A Thank You to the unsung heroes!

At just after 10:30pm on 22nd May 2017, Manchester experienced one of the most barbaric acts of suicide bombing imaginable on British soil. Being a resident of this amazing city and a Manager in a City Centre hotel, I had always been aware of the risk of an attack having received regular anti terrorism training and briefings from Greater Manchester Police, but had never for one second though conscionable the events that unfolded. Just like when 9/11 or 7/7 happened, this was one event where I will remember exactly where I was when I heard about it. To be exact I had just woken up and was in the bathroom at Butlins, Skegness, getting ready to start another relaxing day of my holiday and just blindly checking my phone for notifications after connecting to the wifi.

The disbelief was unreal as I saw variations of the same headline dominate my news feed, and it took a minute or so for my brain to kick in that the news was real; it wasn’t a re-run of the articles about the infamous Arndale IRA bombing or a commemorative news piece. This was my generation, my town, my people. And someone had just blindly killed at least 22 people. Including children. In a targeted, indiscriminate attack.

Working in a city centre hotel, it is strange how your mind kicks in to a specific default mode. Emotions give way to a checklist of sorts, to processes and procedures, but firstly there has to be the texts to every member of my team to check they are okay. Thankfully they were.

As reports unfolded, it was great to hear how Manchester and its catering and hospitality industry pulled together – safe points were set up in nearby hotels, people donated food, beds, even just spaces to charge a phone. Taxis gave free rides home to get people out of the area. Humanity simply pulled together, Britain and Manchester stood strong.

I can’t help but think how things may have turned out had the local people and businesses not pulled together in such a way. The usual false news flailed around social media; stories of blood supplies running out or unaccompanied children sheltering at a nearby hotel (the reality was that there were only a few unaccompanied children who were quickly united with parents or family). The sheer united front shown by all was astounding. 

My thoughts went immediately to all those people who were nearing the end of their shift at city hotels, or even just beginning theirs. The people who didn’t question anything, just helped. The people who worked overnight with no expectation of pay, no expectation of gratitude. They haven’t demanded recognition, they did what was necessary. Staff at my hotel, around ½ mile away, tended to some walking wounded guests who came back after the concert. They calmed people down, they gave water and blankets. They helped people get home, they made phone calls to worried family. And to some, they just have a hug. A simple embrace to say ‘you’re okay’. None of that was done to be a martyr, nor a hero. It was done because they would want someone to do that for them if they had been there.

So, next time you are in a hotel, or a cafe or pub, or getting into a taxi in Manchester, please just take a small moment of time to say thank you. Thank that person for being part of a community that gives without expectation. A community that pulls together. A community that is angry, is hurting, is scared, is devastated, is torn apart, and is in pain. But most importantly it is a community that will stand strong and defiant; it will not be overcome by hatred and will shine brighter than ever before.

And for all of those who now complain that a hotel won’t accept your bag in left luggage or that your concert has now been cancelled. Look at the reasons why. On that night, people stuck around in a dangerous situation to help total strangers, they did this through their own choice. They showed bravery in the face of adversity and they expected nothing in return. Would you do the same? Is it fair to now expect a hotel to store 100+ bags with unknown contents? Would you happily stand all day with that number of bags after this incident without knowing what was in those bags? Then why is there an expectation that a hotel employee should face this risk without question? 

Similarly I have heard of guests complaining that their stay was disrupted by events; that they were inconvenienced by staff not answering a phone at reception or roads being closed or being kept awake by sirens and alarms overnight. Whilst events showed some of the best of humanity, it also highlights some of the most selfish too. It saddens me and disappoints me that people are so self-consumed that they demand compensation because reception didn’t answer the phone, all the while ignoring the fact that this was because they were at the time helping over 20,000 people trying to escape the arena and surrounding area. You are the kind of person that should be ashamed of yourself. You could have gone and helped, instead you chose to complain. Yet you would no doubt condemn others as cruel and selfish and lambast someone for choosing saving lives and comforting the traumatised after such an event, over getting you some new towels.

Let’s just leave that thought there….

Finally. To all my brethren in the hospitality and catering trade who helped in any way that night, from those giving first aid to those making a cup of tea – you ALL showed what Manchester is about, you all displayed courage, care, and most importantly, demonstrated exactly why British hospitality is the best in the world. So from me, and everyone you simply gave a smile to that night, or comforted, or made a phone call for, or helped find a family member.

Thank You

Thank you - you are unsung heroes!

You are stars!

Matt Shiells-Jones

Husband, Author, Hotel Manager and ambitious 'old cat lady'

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