Watching and reading the news yesterday about the suicide bomber who had killed 22 (mostly) young people in Manchester, I was struck by how incredibly sad it all was. The images of those who had been killed or were missing included so many who were children and teenagers. The youngest victim so far identified publicly was only 8 years old, and seeing pictures of her adorable face was heartbreaking.
It brought back for me the memories of the first pop concert my daughters went to. It was 29 March 1998, when Katy had just turned 12 and Ruth was 6. They went with their Mum to see the boyband 911 at Wembley Arena and, as in those days I worked near to the Wembley complex, I drove them up there and we had a pre-show picnic in my office. I have two abiding memories of the day: Ruth taking great delight from the open plan offices in a square building and running laps around the desks, and the way both girls were so vibrant, buzzing with delight when I picked them up after the show. The date is an easy one to check, as it was the day Chelsea played Middlesbrough in the League Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, adjacent to the Arena. I hadn’t realised that on big match days the short road linking our office to the Stadium became one way only, away from the Stadium, to help clear 80,000 supporters as quickly as possible. So, what was meant to be a two minute journey became an absolute nightmare with three very impatient passengers getting ever more nervous as we inched forward in heavy traffic going the long way round and the concert start time approached. In the end they had to do the last two hundred yards on foot, as it was far quicker, but at least they didn’t miss anything. I took Katy to a couple of other concerts there, but we didn’t have anything like the drama of that first one. Given the ages of those we know about from Monday, I suspect that for some of them it would have been their first pop concert, and they will have been going through all the anticipation and excitement that our two enjoyed leading up to their first show. But their parents won’t have been able to share in the after-show excitement, like I did, even though I didn’t actually go to it myself. My memories of that are stored away in my treasure chest of happy moments, and the victims’ parents have been robbed of that.
Somehow, as the memories came back, this song came into my head, and I couldn’t shift it:
As you can see from the lyrics, the song is about how we have moments when we wish that youngsters could be preserved exactly as they are, in their innocence and beauty. Sadly, many went to a pop concert – a joyful event – and a cruel murderer decided that their lives would go no further. Taylor Swift may not be to everyone’s taste and she often gets a bad press, but the simple beauty of that song is, I think, a fitting tribute to those whose lives were torn away from them in such a horrible manner. They will never grow up, and all that their parents, families and friends will have are memories of moments like those in the song. That can never be enough to make up for the terrible hurt they must be feeling now, and which will stay with them forever, but I hope it will help them. Time passes, and memories fade, but I’m sure they can hold onto as many as possible and will treasure them. That is the least they deserve, to try to fill the huge void in their lives. None of us who has children can begin to understand how those poor families are feeling, and it would be wrong of me to guess – it’s not something any parent should ever have to deal with. I just hope they have happy memories of those ‘never grow up’ moments.