Rihanna Hardy had been excited about seeing Ariana Grande since she got her concert ticket as a gift at Christmas. Consequently when your day came, the 11-year-old left school a few hours early to ensure that she arrived at Manchester Arena quickly.
Her father and mother, Ryan and Shauna, took the afternoon off work, and the family drove from Newcastle, 225 kilometres (140 miles) northeast of Manchester. Their car’s satellite navigation program struggled to get to the arena’s multistory car parking lot, but they managed to get there. They were able to acquire Rihanna a black Ariana Grande tour sweatshirt prior to the concert beginning.
But what was supposed to be a special night for Rihanna and a large number of other young concertgoers turned into a tragedy when a suicide bomb blasted off just outside. The bomb killed 22 people, including an 8-year-old young lady, and wounded 59 – the deadliest assault in Britain in greater than a decade.
“Poor Rihanna … she kept asking every five or 10 seconds, ‘Are we going to die?’ Those had been her specific words,” her dad said.
The family took their seats, near to the stage, right before the two supporting acts heated up the crowd. The arena, which seats 21,000, was packed. Girls clutched pink balloons and donned cat ears, like those the 23-year-old Grande is famous for wearing.
As the former star of the Nickelodeon series “Victorious” sang and danced her way through her set, the arena heated up. Young children and their parents glistened with sweat.
Then, as the concert ended, the horror began.