It was the summer of 1996, soon after a trip to Saskatchewan for my cousin’s wedding in Preeceville, that I headed north on the train, excited for my trip to Manchester.
My aunt, a resident of a county close to Manchester, had treated me to tickets for a skating event, like Stars on Ice, for my birthday.
It was held at the new Manchester Arena, then called NYNEX, just completed the year before.
It was the closest to a hockey rink I was likely to get at that time, my other connection being the rink at Preeceville.
We arrived by bus, much like many of those who would have arrived at the Ariana Grande concert, and walked across the street to the venue.
I remember the lobby, a massive foyer with skylights, where the box office is found and the hallway connects to Victoria train station.
It was packed with people, some milling around, others waiting for friends to arrive. There were no security checks in that area, which was the same lobby where the bomb went off Monday night. Bags were searched upstairs, near where you head to the seating.
Bag checks are customary in the U.K., and were long before 9/11, as the threat had long overshadowed public events.
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) bombed Manchester that same summer, but in true British reserve, life went on.
I remember the skating stars more than the building itself and the memories made with my auntie.
I remember our chatter afterwards. I remember looking at the program on the bus home. I remember talking to her about whether I would learn to skate.
It would have been the same chatter that 22 people should have been having with their loved ones at the end of Grande’s concert.
Instead they are left to mourn.