MANCHESTER, England - I went to the Ariana Grande concert Monday expecting it to be one of the best nights of my life. I hadn't been to a concert since I saw Miley Cyrus on her Bangerz tour in the same arena back in 2014. Both my friend and I (I'm 17, he's 18) are huge fans of Ariana - or Arianators, as we're known - and we'd been looking forward to this since we bought tickets on pre-sale late last year.
At 10:29 p.m., the show was just wrapping up. Ariana had just finished performing "Dangerous Woman," which was the final song. The atmosphere was the same as it had been all night, filled with love and happiness. She finished the song, and people started leaving the arena. I was sitting in the upper tier with my best friend, and we both left via the stairs leading down to the main corridor everybody uses to leave the arena.
That's when the explosion occurred.
It came from outside near the main foyer, I think. I heard the sound and immediately saw everybody's reactions of fear and panic. It didn't seem real, and, initially, I had no idea how to react. I had no choice but to run with the hundreds of screaming parents, children and fans all heading toward the nearest exit. My head was filled with panic and terror, and my focus was on not losing my friend in the crowd. I was right behind him and made sure it stayed that way. I saw one woman's shoe had come off, but she didn't stop to go back for it, and I don't blame her.
It was horrible, and I feel so bad for the children who had no idea what was going on - at this point, I didn't even know what was happening, and I don't think anybody did. There were countless children present at the concert, as well as parents and teenagers. It was complete chaos outside, with crowds of people crying on the phone and trying to get away from the arena. Once I got outside, I immediately rang my mum to let her know I was safe and ordered a taxi home as the Metrolink tram had stopped running by then.
When we entered the arena, security hardly even checked my bag, and I hope security is tightened in the future, because it was ridiculous how little effort they put into checking. Their "exam" consisted of opening the bag, having a three-second glance, then feeling the exterior of the bag before allowing people to enter.
The entire night had been so amazing, and Ariana preached so much positivity and happiness. What happened makes me sad, because concerts are supposed to be safe and a celebration of music. More than four hours later, I am still unable to sleep. I hope Ariana is staying strong, because nobody expected tonight to end the way it did, and she is such a kind and compassionate role model. I am shocked and at a loss for words. My heart goes out to the victims and their families - nobody deserved to experience the events of this night. And I truly believe the community of Manchester has been brought even closer together.
- Joe Ryan is a college student from Manchester, England.