The reports of the Manchester bombing that were scrolling on the television screens were probably just the latest bad news washing over most of the travelers around me, who had other places on their mind.
The disclosure that many of those who died were just kids surely heightened the awfulness of the event, but it didn’t completely explain why I was so moved. Though I was returning to my current home in Florida, the headlines took me back to a home I have never quite left completely.
News, just like politics, is ultimately always local, and though Monday’s event had occurred some 4,000 miles away, it felt like it was on my doorstep because old ties tugged at my heart.
It may be many years since Manchester was actually my home, but you never really lose that sense of place, of belonging. You may get uprooted, but you can never really shake off all the soil. Some of that earth gets carried to wherever you are transplanted, giving life to what grows new there.
And so I pictured the streets around the gruesome scene, remembering the times I had walked there when not much older than some of those who died. I wondered if anyone I still knew in the area had been touched.
Yes, as it turned out, I would learn. An old school chum whose daughter’s friend was there, but escaped uninjured. An old work colleague whose wife taught one of the victims. I imagined the relief. I imagined the grief. There were some tears for each.
The smiles came as I read how the city responded to the attack. Taxi drivers offered free rides home to those left stranded, while people took to social media to offer overnight accommodation, or somewhere to charge cell phones and get a cup of tea.
It was this last response, putting on the kettle, that really got to me. It was something quintessentially English, reminding me of the photos from the Blitz during World War Two: people sitting on the rubble of what used to be their homes, quietly sipping tea.
At the same time, those Mancunians’ offer of a cuppa was also in essence universal, seen in differing forms following other acts of horror. A small gesture from big hearts—people offering what they could to somehow help, to show that they cared, to rebuke great cruelty with a little kindness.
Manchester has long been known for her soccer teams, her music, and even her beer, but from now on I will always better remember my hometown for her tea.
I don’t know how many cups actually got served. Still, I like to think that each one was a note that will ring true long after the echo of the blast has faded, together forming a song of remembrance. Call it tea and symphony.