Hartlepool college student who survived Manchester Arena bombing returns to pay respects on anniversary of attack
A Hartlepool college student who survived last year's Ariana Grande concert bombing is returning to Manchester today to pay her respects to the victims on the first anniversary.
Hartlepool College of Further Education student Chloe Park, 17, and her mum Janette Park, 50, had been enjoying the final moments of the concert when Islamic extremist Salman Abedi killed himself and 22 others in a suicide bombing that rocked the world.
Five people from the North East were among those who died, including Hartlepool-born Jane Tweddle, who was 51.
Chloe and her family have since returned to Manchester to pay their respects and will do so again today on the first anniversary of the attack to honour the victims.
The Duke of Cambridge and the Prime Minister will be among those attending a service of remembrance at Manchester Cathedral, which will be broadcast on big screens at nearby Cathedral Gardens. Meanwhile, the nation will observe a minute’s silence at 2.30pm.
Members of the public are also being invited to attach messages to 28 trees planted between Victoria Station - near the concert venue - and St Ann’s Square as part of a memorial tree trail in the city named Trees of Hope.
Chloe said: “We felt like it’s something we have to do, to honour those who died. A few minutes later and that could have been us that night.”
Recalling that night, Chloe said: “We were going to leave a few minutes earlier and would have been in the foyer where the attack happened, but Ariana came back on for an encore so we stayed for that.
“After she’d finished we went downstairs and turned right to go out when we heard the bang. We knew instantly it wasn’t a balloon or speakers, it was way too powerful for that.
“There was about five seconds when everyone was still, then everyone began panicking and running.”
As mother and daughter feared for their lives, dad John Park, 45, was outside waiting to collect them and for a few hours in the aftermath of the tragedy, neither knew what happened to the other.
Chloe, who lives with her parents in Shotton Colliery, said: “We weren’t hurt but we didn’t know if there was another attacker, we were so frightened. We had no service on our phones and couldn’t find my dad for three hours, it was terrifying.”
The women found shelter in the doorway of a nearby hotel until John could reach them.
Chloe said: “It’s awful to think what could have happened if we’d left a few minutes earlier. Looking back, we wish we had gone back to help the victims, but in that moment we didn’t know what was going to happen next and we just ran.”
Though she wasn’t physically harmed, like many others, Chloe bears the psychological scars of being caught up in the terror that night.
A month after the attack, she and her mum received free tickets to the One Love Manchester benefit concert at Old Trafford Cricket Ground to see the likes of Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Take That, Stevie Wonder, Coldplay and Liam Gallagher perform.
The student said: “We were really excited about going and I was fine for about 40 minutes. Then I heard a mic bang and I thought it was another attack. I had a panic attack and the paramedics had to give me a mask to help me breathe. I think Ariana putting on the concert was amazing but sadly I missed her and Justin Bieber because of the seizure. It must have been so scary for her to perform again after that night.”