An isles teenager who fled from Manchester Arena and helped to reunite a young girl with her mother has spoken of her horror of the attack at a pop concert.
Sarah Gardiner, 19, was at the Ariana Grande concert with boyfriend Rob Kirkpatrick.
“Everyone was having a great time,” she said. “It was one of the best nights of my life and then it turned into the worst.”
Miss Gardiner, originally from Whiteness, thought at first she heard gunshots and her boyfriend put his arm around her for protection before people began running and screaming. At that point they had no idea of the scale of the horror that was unfolding.
She said a man came on stage after the concert had finished. “He said ‘there are no problems here’ which was not true. I don’t know if he was trying to keep people calm because people were being stampeded.”
“The last song had pretty much just finished and we had just picked up our merchandise and were chatting away about which way we should go out… They were saying on the news it was two loud bangs but I kind of remember hearing three but it was a stressful time.
“It was a very loud noise and I thought it was gunshots because of the rapid noises.
“I thought it was a gun…. my boyfriend has his arm over me to protect me… Everyone started running and there were a few deafening seconds of silence before the screaming started and we just started running.
It was one of the best nights of my life and then it turned into the worst. SARAH GARDINER
“It was really scary. We found a girl called Katie and she was clinging to the railings.”
Miss Gardiner, a business admin apprentice on the mainland believed the girl had been separated from her friends. She said she was about 14 and the girl had planned to meet her mum at Victoria Station in Manchester after the gig. The couple also helped a teenage boy off the ground in the rush to get out of the venue.
“We got outside and there were a lot of people pushing and a lot of people screaming,” she said.
Miss Gardiner rang her mum and her sister to let them know she was okay and tried to phone Katie’s mum.
“I was facing this girl lying in the street and she was being treated, I think it was by a paramedic, it may have been by a bystander. She was covered in blood. My boyfriend tried to steer Katie away because she was not in a good state.
“Eventually we found her mum. She was very grateful and kept saying ‘thank you so much I’m never going to forget this’.”
Sarah took to social media to let people know that she was safe with a Twitter message explaining that she and Rob had been able to make it back to their hotel. She went on to write of her shock and dismay at being caught up in the traumatic experience.
I’m in so much shock. I’m very grateful to be safe and my heart goes out to everyone who weren’t so lucky. I can’t believe this happened
— sarah gardiner (@_sarahgardiner) May 22, 2017
The SIC’s depute convener Beatrice Wishart has issued a statement offering support to all those affected by the terrorist incident.
“Our thoughts are with all those affected by … [the] attack at the Manchester Arena, especially the families and friends of those who have died or are injured or missing. This horrific and senseless attack, deliberately targeting young people attending a pop concert, is another painful reminder of the need for vigilance against a continuing terrorist threat.”
As a mark of respect to all those affected by Monday night’s attack in Manchester a minute’s silence will be held tomorrow at 11am at all Shetland Islands Council premises. It will be observed in all public offices across the UK.
More in Friday’s Shetland Times.