Lisa Ware and Shanine Bruder
A year has passed since the bombing at Manchester Arena which resulted in 23 dead and 139 injured, many of whom were children attending their first concert.
For Bangor University student Shanine Bruder, 20, who was at the Ariana Grande concert with her fourteen-year-old brother Denva, life will never be the same.
“I bought the tickets for myself and my brother last Christmas,” Shanine said. “He was so excited. We were the first to arrive and enter the arena.
“We spent a few hours chatting to the stewards and buying merchandise while we watched hundreds of happy children filling the foyer.
“Looking back I think of all those excited children, my brother included, and what happened in there hours later and I just start to cry.”
Shanine and Denva were seated high up in the arena, the concert was drawing to a close, and thousands of happy fans were preparing to leave when the explosion ripped through the foyer.
“My brother was in his element, singing and dancing, a big grin on his face. It got to 10.30 and the lights came on, and that’s when it happened,” Shanine says.
“There was an awful bang which shook the whole arena. Sheer panic filled my body. I remember looking down on a sea of people screaming and running.
“I screamed at my brother to duck down and hide behind people, grabbed our bags and coats and we ran.
“We were about to run through the foyer exit but were stopped by a man who pointed to another set of stairs.
“When we reached the bottom there was smoke everywhere and an awful smell. My brother couldn’t run fast enough so I picked him up and ran outside.”
When they got outside Shanine recalls the chaos in the immediate aftermath, with people screaming as they ran from the building whilst armed police surrounded the venue and cordoned off the area.
“I didn’t really know what was going on, I thought it was a bomb but couldn’t be sure. I just remember holding my brother and seeing armed police everywhere,” she said.
“We hunkered down at the corner of the arena. People were crying and shouting that there had been a bomb
“I rang my partner to say goodbye. I was so sure we were going to die. I was so panicked he couldn’t understand me, and then my phone died.
“I was scared there could be more bombs and just wanted to get us away from the area. Then my brother started to scream and shake,
“Near us, three bodies were lying on the floor, men and women with nails in their faces, stomach and legs. There was blood everywhere, it was horrifying.
“We just ran and ran through the town centre crying our eyes out until we found ourselves in an alleyway. We cowered down holding each other until our Nana eventually found us.
“It really hit me when we got home and I saw the news rolling across the screen. At that point no-one had been confirmed dead but suddenly I couldn’t breathe, my chest felt so tight.
“I stayed awake all that night, sitting next to my brother who asked if he could sleep in my bed because he was so petrified. We just sat there crying and crying, and soon it was morning, and still we cried.”
Following the bombing, there was a huge public outpouring of grief for those who had died and been injured,
Thousands of people held a vigil in the city centre amidst a sea of floral tributes.
On 4th of June a heartbroken Ariana Grande held a benefit concert to raise funds for victims of the attack, with those who had been at Manchester Arena receiving free tickets. Shanine and Denva were amongst them.
“The memorial concert was overwhelming and emotional but I knew we had to go,” said Shanine.
“We couldn’t let the bomber win and I had to show my brother that we could leave the house and things would be ok.
“We were both scared when leaving the concert and became panicked and a bit disorientated. A police officer asked us if we were ok?
“I broke down and thanked him for being there. He apologised for not being there last time, but promised that they would always be around from now on. Just for those few minutes, I felt safe.”
For those who witnessed the attack, she said, the road to recovery will be long.
“No 14-year-old should ever have to see what he did that night. We weren’t physically injured but will suffer a lifetime of mental scars,” Shanine said.
“I think about it every day, it has changed my life and I will never forget what happened. Every time I hear a bang or a firework I want to run and hide.
“Every time I see someone tweeting in remembrance for those that died it breaks my heart. You never think something like this is going to happen to you.
“My brother has been back to the arena for a victim support event, but I cannot see myself going back there.”
For Shanine’s brother Denva, forming a friendship with another survivor, Abigail Hughes, 18, allowed him to smile again.
Both took to Twitter to find other youngsters who understood the trauma that they were facing after the explosion.
Denva Bruder met Abigail and other victims through a group chat on the social media site.
“There were over 30 people in the group chat, all young music fans who attended the concert on the 22nd of May,” he said.
“The purpose of this group was to make friends with other victims at the attack and to arrange a meetup where we could all pay tribute to the 22 people who lost their lives that night.”
Weeks later the youngsters gathered in St Anne’s Square all wearing their Ariana Grande and One Love Manchester merchandise, in an act to pay their respects to those tragically killed.
While holding each other’s hands and singing along to Ariana Grande’s single ‘One Last Time’, they released dozens of pink balloons into the sky.
Twitter not only brought these youngsters together, but it also brought them that little bit closer to their pop star idol Ariana Grande who noticed their meet-up online.
‘’I was so happy that Ariana had noticed our pictures of our meet-up that I began to cry, but not sad tears, tears of joy,” Denva said.
‘’It was the first time since the concert where I had been so happy that I felt like I could smile again, and just for a short amount of time I was able to forget about that terrible night.’’
Abigail Hughes who has also found friendship with Denva Bruder and other survivors told how the teenagers now meet up once a week to support each other and have arranged to attend another concert together.
“The idea of going to another concert still makes me very anxious, but because I am going with the new friends I have made from this experience, it is going to be so much easier to have them with me,” she said.
Editor: Enjoying Nation.Cymru? Please help support investigative journalism in Wales by subscribing to Nation.Cymru through the ‘Subscribe’ button below.