Don’t look back in anger.
Dedicated to the people of Manchester. Thinking of all those affected by the terrorist attack one year ago today.
Thanks to Oasis for the loan of their song title.
Billy was brought up to hate Muslims. His Dad used to call them ‘terrorists’ and ‘murderers’ who didn’t belong in this country. They should ‘fuck off back where they came from’ was a regular tirade whenever the subject of immigration came up on the television news.
Ahmed was born in Sale. Both his parents were born in Bolton. His grandparents came from India and Accrington. None of his family hated anyone as far as he knew. His grandad loathed fish and chips but they were careful not to share that dark family secret too far.
Emily came from a strict Jewish family. Although her parents were outwardly respectful of other people’s beliefs, it was important to them that their only daughter be brought up in the faith.
James thought all religion was just a form of control. Anybody allowing themselves to take it seriously should be bombarded with custard pies until they accepted that the only real god was Eric Cantona.
All four of them loved music. All four of them loved Manchester. All four of them hated violence. None of them were that fussed about mashed potato.
On the night of the bombing two of them had been at home with their families watching the nightmare unfold.
It was the first time Billy found the courage to tell his Dad to ‘shut the fuck up and start thinking about how your hate just breeds more hate’.
Ahmed felt a deep sense of shame and anger that someone had thought the killing and maiming of children in the name of his religion was justified. The tears flowed that night, the next day would be worse.
The girl he’d tried to help died in the arms of James about forty-five minutes after the explosion. She’d managed to tell him her name, asked him to tell her parents how much she loved them and to pass a message to her boyfriend.
Emily died of the injuries she’d received in the terrorist attack. She was just seventeen years old.
Billy went with James when he went to pass on the message Emily had given him for Ahmed before she slipped away. They were friends from way back and when James asked him to come along, he had no hesitation.
Not only because they were friends but because he felt compelled to break down the beliefs his Dad had tried to install in him since he’d been a small child. He knew they had no place in any world he wanted to be a part of for one second longer.
The three of them talked for hours. Ahmed wanted to know every detail about his girlfriends final moments. Hard though it was, James did his best to give him what he needed.
Billy asked questions about Emily as he sensed Ahmed would gain comfort in talking about her to strangers. He found out where they’d met, what they had in common and about their plan to attend the same University when the time came.
All three of them cried many tears that afternoon. They consoled each other for the pain in their hearts and refused to allow each other to carry unwarranted shame in the souls.
They wouldn’t yet know it of course, they probably would never know it, but in that room they were laying the foundations for the recovery of their city. An energy was being created that they would carry with them and infect their fellow Mancunians far and wide.
A proud and diverse city that will not ever surrender to those that wish harm on them. As they always have done they will choose to love, not hate. To love, not hate. To love, not hate.
As for the message Billy had for Ahmed from Emily? She only managed to get out five words, it was a last instruction on how he should go on without her; ‘Don’t look back in anger’ he’d heard her say.
Click the link for another short story based on a well-known song: