‘The screaming just kept getting louder’: We spoke to people who were at Manchester Arena last night

People were climbing over each other to get out

Last night at around 10:30pm, a lone attacker detonated a nail bomb at an Ariana Grande concert in the Manchester Arena.

It’s been called “the most horrific attack” Greater Manchester has experienced, killing 22 and injuring 59, many of whom were teenagers and children. Two girls have been identified. Georgina Callander was 16. Saffie Rose Roussos was just eight-years-old.

Inside and outside the arena was “chaos” – corridors clouded with thick smoke, piercing screams, people climbing over each other and bloodied bodies on the floor. But the people of Manchester came together, opening their homes, offering support and helping people get home. Here are some accounts from people who were there last night:

Jessica Brady, 17, Cheshire

I was sat on the upper seats with my cousin when it happened. We were about to leave early to avoid crowds, but were stuck behind a load of other people. If we had left earlier, it could have been a lot worse for us. The show had been finished for about two minutes, all lights were turned on and there was a loud bang which sounded like a firework that echoed through the the doors into the arena. There was then a moment of silence – people were really confused and looked around at each other.

Some people claimed it could of been a speaker that had blown, or a huge balloon popping. Still not too concerned, we continued to walk out the exit, but everyone started piling back in. The screams just got louder and louder. We were pushed towards another exit, when two young men ran towards us, drenched in blood from head to toe, shouting for us to run the other way. At this point, we thought this was some kind of sick joke. We tried to find another exit, and it all kicked in when piles of teenagers ran back through it screaming “they’re coming”.

I grabbed my cousin, who was hiding under a chair, and we ran through the exit the blood splattered men had told us to avoid. The corridor was covered in thick grey smoke. I tried not to look, focusing on getting out of there, but bodies must have been everywhere. People were jumping over bars where staircases were to get out faster, leaping over chairs – it was chaos.

Once we got out, police were at the scene and children, families and teens were tripping over the steps screaming and crying. People were running in all directions towards the nearest hotels away from the building. We were comforted by a group of girls, who took us somewhere safe so we could get a lift home. Everyone was there to support one another and to make sure everybody was safe.

Sara Willshire, University of Manchester graduate

I was there with seven friends when we heard the bang. At first I thought it was an amp or a speaker falling because the sound was so detrimental. But suddenly, faces of panic and blood curdling screams were heard in the arena – like nothing I’d ever heard before. Everybody started to run to the nearest exit and I was clutching on to my friends for dear life who suddenly had broken down in tears and were hyperventilating. I remained calm, but the atmosphere immediately felt evil and monstrous.

There was thick smoke fogging the corridors, people were running for their lives and falling over each other. We ran down the stairs in panic, everyone was pushing each other out the way. There were absolutely no officials or security to be seen.

There was debris and merchandise sprawled all over the floor and the screams were so loud it was deafening. We reached the nearest exit and I honestly thought people were going to be crushed to death. People were climbing over each other, screaming and sobbing. The entire arena was in fight or flight mode.

I didn’t particularly see any acts of kindness or anyone helping anyone, I was just clutching on to three of my friends because we’d all been split up.

The police and paramedics arrived within minutes. We went as far away as possible from the scene, thinking there would be another bomb or shooting. We went into a car park and heard a second bomb be released. We had no idea what had happened, so I was frantically checking the news to see if anyone was hurt. We wondered the streets for an hour and a half, waiting for our taxi driver to take us back to Wakefield where we are from, and as we were walking saw so many children on the streets and so many crying people. We walked pat several hotels and their hotel lobbies were full of people from the concert.

I remained calm for the sake of my friends, but as soon as we got in the taxi home the reality sunk in. My mum was waiting to pick me up from where we were being dropped off and I just broke down in to hysteria, and I’ve been this way since. I’ve never felt this feeling before. I cannot believe a person would target an area that was full of basically children. I feel absolutely numb and I can’t comprehend the events that I was part of. I’m so lucky I have my friends to share this experience with me, we can support each other. I just can’t forget the lives that have been lost, the parents that will be without kids and even the kids that will be without parents. I’m disgusted and confused, it’s so hard to process. Today I honestly feel numb, I’ve not slept, I’ve been up all night watching BBC News 24 to keep updated. For my own peace of mind I just need to know what has happened to these poor victims that could have been me.

I feel nervous for the future and the future of my own future children/the next generation. Kids can’t even attend a concert of their favourite artist without some people ending up dead. It’s disgusting.

Naa Acquah, Gen Sec at the University of Manchester

I wasn’t at the concert, but I’d been at a friends house who lives directly opposite. We heard the bang – which was like nothing I’ve ever heard before – and saw people running. At first we didn’t clock what happened, thinking they were running after a celebrity to get an autograph. We went to see what was going on, it was so chaotic. Girls as young as 11 standing alone, crying their eyes out, trying to get in contact with their parents. What I did notice though, is how the people of Manchester came together to help – offering up their homes, offering lifts and offering support. I tried to get an uber, but they kept cancelling on me, so we decided our best bet was to go back to my friend’s flat. That whole night was so tense, we were terrified something else would happen again – constantly checking the news and Twitter.

We’ve organised a vigil tonight at 5.30pm – students and locals can meet at uni place, and we’ll walk to the cities vigil at Albert Square for 6PM. We’ll bring materials to make banners. The main thing I want to say from this, is to encourage everyone to not let this one horrific attack divide us. Manchester needs to remain the strong, inclusive and united city that we all know and love – and this can only make us stronger.

Megan Slack, Student at Leeds University

It’s so so raw and I’ve hardly slept. I can’t believe what just happened. It was only about one minute after her last song, and everyone was leaving, I was heading for the exit to the train station which was about 15 feet away from me when the whole room was lit up an amber/ yellow colour and there was the biggest explosion sound I have ever heard. The room literally shook with it and everyone began screaming and running as fast as we could. I was so scared that there would be another explosion, which I could be running towards, but I was just so desperate to get away.

My friend and I held hands all the way to the next exit we could find and ran down the stairs into the street, we just wanted to get as far away as we could. The whole street was filled with police and army trucks and helicopters, it was just so surreal. We sat on the street and watched it unfold but it was only later when I heard the death toll on the news that it fully hit me.

I’m not from Manchester, but I could feel the city coming together. People were so generous – so many of my old school friends who went to Manchester uni wanted to offer me a room.  At first I was just so sickened and wondered what a terrible place the world has become, but the goodness of the people in the city and support from everyone has highlighted to me that there are evil people, but the goodness of other people overpower them.

Ellie, student at University of Manchester

We were just getting ready to leave, we were stood at the top of the arena with the stage behind us, at the top of the stairs there was a loud explosion just after the concert ended. People who were leaving that way came screaming and started running back in,  it was terrifying. As soon as everyone started to run back from the stairs everyone else then began screaming, pushing and shoving. There was overall panic.

Staff were saying it was either a balloon or blown speaker, but we all could smell the smoke. When we eventually got outside and saw how many police were present we knew that something big had happened. It was terrifying.

Daniella, student at Manchester Metropolitan University

My apartment window faces the ring road so the arena is directly on the right of my building, so I could see everything. There’s been so many police sirens all night. I was scared at first, but only because my mum rang me screaming down the phone asking if I was alright.

Nathan Pierce, Student at The University of Manchester

I was near the printworks when we heard a big explosion, I work in a bar close by and some people came in with bandages and wounds saying that a bomb had gone off in the atrium of the MEN arena as people were trying to get out.

There were loads of little girls in tears, some of them looked younger than 10. We could see loads of people running away from the arena, in a panic.

There was a guy with blood all over his neck being checked by some of the security guards from the bars near by.

The whole of print works got evacuated, everyone stopped work and we were all calling taxis and giving out water and bandages to people. It was awful.

Nikki, Ariana Grande fan

Ariana had literally walked off stage about a minute before after finishing her encore, we were sat in block 102 and started making our way towards the exit up the stairs. From two blocks down there was a loud explosion and then after a few seconds people started running back in to the arena, screaming and running across the aisles towards us. We couldn’t make out what anyone was saying so we started walking away from them to try and get to another exit.

There was confusion about what was happening and we had a lot of teenagers and young children around us in hysterics, we were trying to calm them down telling them not to worry and that it would just have been a speaker or something like that. When we got to an exit I asked security if it was safe to exit the arena and was told “dunno what’s happened just get the fuck out quick”. A gent then came running in screaming for his daughters – I’m not sure if he found them but I hope they were safe.

When we walked up in to the foyer area there was a smell that I have never smelled before and a smoke that was like a fog. We started walking towards the train station exit but then saw people covered in blood running towards us, we turned round to go to the exit that leads out to the main road. When we came out on the main road it was chaos. Parents screaming for kids, teenagers crying and some that were injured. Luckily the police were already there and directed us away from the building.

We overheard conversations on the way up of people saying they had heard people saying it was a bomb and that there were screws and bolts all over, and some bodies on the floor. Luckily we managed to get a train back to Leeds but when we arrived we were escorted from the train station by armed police which was unsettling.