VIDEO: Brave Wigan teen talks about being caught up in Manchester bombing
A brave Wigan teen has spoken out about the harrowing moment she was blown off her feet by a powerful bomb which took the lives of 22 innocent people.
Twelve months on, Amelia Tomlinson, 18, reflects on the traumatic event and says she is determined not to let it change the way she lives her life.
The Beech Hill teenager was caught up in the targeted suicide attack after leaving the Ariana Grande gig on May 22 last year with her best friend, Lucy Jarvis.
Despite suffering horrific injuries including shrapnel wounds which almost blew off her fingers, Amelia has returned several times since to the scene of the tragedy to attend concerts.
As they were leaving the arena through the foyer leading to Victoria Station, the bomb went off just feet away.
“I had just pressed call on my mobile to phone my mum,” said Amelia. “When the bomb hit it felt like loads of hot air. I thought it was acid so I tried to hide my face. I was thrown into the air and it sounded like water rushing into my ears.
“They think I might have blacked out but when I woke up the ceiling was failing in. There was fire and there were a lot of people unconscious around us.
“Lucy and I had been blown apart in the blast. We got up, looked at each other and ran back into the block. That’s when she stopped running because she was so injured.”
Once the initial shock of the blast wore off, Amelia realised that her friend had suffered serious injuries to her legs and also began to worry for the safety of her mum Tina, who was outside the arena waiting to pick her up.
“I was thinking there must have been other bombs at other entrances,” said Amelia. “I was worried about my mum and my nan.
“My phone had been blown out of my hand. I needed to call her to tell her not to come near so I used Lucy’s phone.
“When I went to call I realised my fingers were hanging off.”
Amelia’s injuries including shrapnel wounds to her feet.
Her friend Lucy, who is still in recovery a year later, was so severely injured that she was rushed off to hospital by paramedics.
Accompanied by a Manchester Arena technician, Amelia was able to find her mum and make her way to Manchester Royal Infirmary to seek treatment.
“They cut my jeans off me and my legs were bleeding,” she said. “There were loads of shrapnel wounds on my fingers, my eye and on my face. They told me they were worried I might have concussion.
“I was transferred over to Wigan so they could treat people who were coming arriving in such a bad condition.” Amelia, who was only 17 at the time of the attack, received surgery to sew her hand back together and had her wounds cleaned.
Fortunately the shrapnel that had entered her shoe had not become lodged in her foot, instead bouncing off the bone causing significant pain and swelling.
Since the terror attack, Amelia has taken a different approach to life, quitting college where she was studying animal management, to think about what she wants from her future.
“I have good and bad days,” she said. “I have changed since the bomb but it has made me want to live my life a lot more.
“It has made me unsure of what I was doing so I have taken a year off to decide what to do.
“I have been to the arena loads of times since. I am absolutely determined to not let it stop me. It was a horrible night but I don’t think the actions of that man should stop me living the rest of my life.”
Amelia and her mum have chosen not to stay in the UK during the anniversary and have taken a special trip to Los Angeles and San Francisco to mark a year since her survival.
“It doesn’t bother me as much anymore,” she added. “But I would rather not have it shoved in my face. This way I can remember them and pay my respects on the day but I won’t be overthinking it.”
As Amelia recovers she is still required to attend physio to help her regain full strength in her damaged fingers.