Wigan student speaks about surviving Manchester Arena terror attack ahead of fourth anniversary

Student Millie Tomlinson should have fond memories of the night she went to an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena with her friend.
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But instead, they were just metres away from a terrorist as he detonated a bomb on May 22,2017.

Millie and her friend Lucy Jarvis both survived, but they were injured and that night changed their lives.

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Now 21, Millie has spoken about what happened and how she has worked to rebuild her life in a new podcast series by BBC Radio Manchester.

Millie TomlinsonMillie Tomlinson
Millie Tomlinson

Manchester Arena Bomb - Stories of Hope is a four-part series presented by Radio 1 presenter Katie Thistleton to mark the fourth anniversary of the terror attack.

Millie, from Beech Hill, remembers being desperate to phone her mum straight after the blast, as she was on her way to meet her and wanted to warn her in case there was another bomb.

She told the podcast how she tried to unlock a mobile phone, but three of her fingers were injured.

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She was eventually led out of the arena by a paramedic and saw the “chaos” from the blast, before meeting up with her mum and grandmother.

Survivor Millie Tomlinson met Louise Murray, whose brother Martyn Hett was killed in the blast. Pic: Rob Brooks (BBC)Survivor Millie Tomlinson met Louise Murray, whose brother Martyn Hett was killed in the blast. Pic: Rob Brooks (BBC)
Survivor Millie Tomlinson met Louise Murray, whose brother Martyn Hett was killed in the blast. Pic: Rob Brooks (BBC)

“They thought I was dead for like 10, 15 minutes because when they tried to get in the foyer where the bomb had gone off, a man said there were dead people in there. My mum hadn’t heard from me and thought the worst,” she said.

Millie had injuries to her ankle and hand, which meant she could not even pick up a knife and fork or hold a cup after the attack.

Her mental health also suffered as she battled depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

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She spoke about having survivors guilt and wondering why she had not suffered worse injuries.

It has been an extremely difficult few years for Millie, but she has received a lot of support and is now studying a degree in television and radio at Salford University.

In the podcast, she meets Louise Murray, whose brother Martyn Hett was killed in the blast, and finds out how she has moved forward with her life by setting up a business.

The series tells the stories of just some of the hundreds of people who were left injured and psychologically affected by what happened in Manchester that night.

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Among them is Usman Ahmed, who was working his final shift as a steward when the bomb exploded. He talks about his mental health and the importance of his faith.

Martin Hibbert, who suffered 22 shrapnel wounds which left him paralysed from the waist down, promises to help Usman. Since the attack, Martin has set up a survivors unit and is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro later this year with hopes of raising £1m for the Spinal Injuries Association.

In episode two, Annette McNeil and her daughters Erin and Caitlin return to the arena to read letters they have written to themselves describing their mental and emotional journey.

They then watch a special performance by 17-year-old Alexis Wade who has her singing lessons paid for by Liv’s Trust, a fund set up by the family of 15-year-old Olivia Campbell Hardy who died in the attack.

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Also featured is Jenny Howarth, who is visited at her family-owned Wonkey Donkey Sanctuary in Yorkshire by Rob Grew who remembers helping Jenny’s two aunties on the night of the bombing after they were seriously injured.

Presenter Katie Thistleton said: “This podcast is one of the best things I’ve ever done, but also one of the hardest. It was difficult to hear about the victims’ experiences, but also incredibly inspiring to see the strength and resilience of these wonderful people. There are some amazing stories amongst these four episodes and some powerful moments. These stories and the messages they bring with them have changed my outlook on life and will stay with me.”

Manchester Arena Bomb - Stories of Hope is available via BBC Sounds and the BBC’s website.

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