Manchester marks third anniversary of arena blast

Balloons and flowers at a makeshift memorial at St Ann"s Square, Manchester Image copyright EPS
Image caption After the attack, thousands of tributes to the victims were left in St Ann's Square

The arena bombing was "forever etched in our minds", the Dean of Manchester said as he led a live-streamed memorial service to mark the third anniversary of the attack.

Twenty-two people were killed and hundreds injured in the suicide bombing at the end of an Ariana Grande concert.

Those watching the video stream were invited to light remembrance candles.

Rogers Govender led the prayers and read out the names of those who died, as hundreds watched the service online.

He said "that awful day" was more poignant this year as families could not be together "for comfort and support" due to coronavirus restrictions, but added "we stand with you in solidarity".

Another service was streamed on Manchester Cathedral's Facebook page at 16:30 BST, while an hour later a requiem Mass for the victims was celebrated at a Catholic church near to the arena.

Image copyright United We Stream
Image caption Mel C performed at the Arena with The Spice Girls

Former Spice Girl Mel C headlined a musical tribute to the victims in a DJ set on the online platform United We Stream.

The website streams DJ sets, live music and live performances with viewers donating money to support various leisure venues, performers and cultural organisations across Greater Manchester hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Manchester Survivors, a group of people who were at the Arena during the attack, performed outdoors while observing social distancing measures.

At 22:31 BST - the exact time of the 2017 attack - BBC Radio Manchester broadcast a recording of Manchester Cathedral's bells tolling 22 times.

Because of coronavirus-related restrictions people were encouraged not to physically gather for the anniversary, or to leave tributes, but to mark it online or at home.

On Thursday Ariana Grande sent a heartfelt message to fans, writing on Instagram: "I will be thinking of you all week and weekend."

The pop star had just finished playing at the venue when Salman Abedi detonated a homemade explosive device.

Image copyright Manchester Cathedral
Image caption The Dean of Manchester, Rogers Govender, read out the names of those who died

His brother, Hashem Abedi, was convicted of murder earlier this year for his role in planning the attacks. His sentencing has been postponed because of the travel restrictions in place due to Covid-19.

The mother of victim Martyn Hett has said this year's anniversary would be "very strange".

Figen Murray said: "Before the restrictions, it was really important we had connectedness and reached out, family and friends, but also the wider community, to come together.

"We can't do that this year. It's going to be very strange.

"I'm normally a really robust and resilient person, but I've had so much time on my hands. I'm struggling a bit.

"I can't have people to visit, it is very raw, I have noticed I am very reflective, I dream a lot."

Instead, Mr Hett's family and friends have been planning to join a group chat on video conferencing app Zoom, raising a toast to the 29-year-old PR manager.

Mrs Murray said: "Zoom will do this year. Since the pandemic, we have all had to adapt and I think that shows how strong the human spirit is."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Martyn Hett was one of the 22 people killed
Image copyright Manchester City Council
Image caption The memorial will be located between Manchester Cathedral and Chetham's School of Music

Details of a permanent memorial to the victims near the cathedral were announced earlier this week.

It will be a garden space with a stone "halo" centrepiece bearing the 22 names.

Sir Richard Leese, leader of the city council, said: "Manchester will never forget the terrible events of 22 May 2017.

"Those who were killed, those who lost loved ones and all those whose lives changed forever that night are forever in our thoughts."

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