The first person, ever, to receive an honorary citizenship of Manchester will be American singer and actor, Ariana Grande, following her “One Love” concert aimed at raising funds for the victims of the Manchester Arena terror attack on May 22 that left 22 people dead and 220 injured.
It was immediately after Ariana’s performance that the attack had taken place on that tragic evening.
“This seems a fitting moment to update the way we recognize those who make noteworthy contributions to the life and success of our city,” Sir Richard Leese, the leader of the Manchester city council, told BBC News.
“We’ve all had cause to be incredibly proud of Manchester and the resilient and compassionate way in which the city, and all those associated with it, have responded to the terrible events of 22 May, with love and courage rather than hatred and fear,” he said.
“Ariana Grande exemplified this response. I think many people would already consider her an honorary Mancunian and we would be delighted, if the council approves the proposal, to make it official,” he added.
The proposal will be reviewed by the council on July 12 which seems to be a mere formality to make the landmark announcement official.
Ahead of the star-studded concert, Ariana made it a point to visit the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital ward to spend some time with the young girls injured in the terrorist attack, not forgetting to take flowers and stuffed toys for them.
A Facebook post by a victim’s father says it all:
“This means more to us than all the amazing things people have done this week. When your daughter asks after her 2nd operation: ‘Is Ariana OK?’ So happy she came I could burst! Never seen Jaden so happy! Even cried again myself.”
On May 22, soon after Ariana Grande left the Manchester Arena stage following her performance, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the foyer, killing 22 people and injuring 220 others.
On the Friday following tragedy, Ariana took to Twitter with an emotionally charged statement:
“My heart, prayers, and deepest condolences are with the victims of the Manchester Attack and their loved ones. There is nothing I or anyone can do to take away the pain you are feeling or to make this better,” “However, I extend my hand and heart and everything I possibly can give to you and yours, should you want or need my help in any way. The only thing we can do now is choose how we let this affect us and how we live our lives from here on out.”
She goes on to say, “I am sorry for the pain and fear that you must be feeling and for the trauma that you, too, must be experiencing. We will never be able to understand why events like this take place because it is not in our nature, which is why we shouldn’t recoil. We will not quit or operate in fear. We won’t let this divide us. We won’t let hate win.”
“We will continue in honor of the ones we lost, their loved ones, my fans, and all affected by this tragedy. They will be on my mind and in my heart every day and I will think of them with everything I do for the rest of my life,” she concluded.
A lesser mortal would have stayed away and could have been forgiven for it considering the impact such carnage can have on a person’s psyche. However, the brave and compassionate Ariana who left the UK “broken, from the bottom of my heart,” returned on June 4 for the “One Love” concert, at the Old Trafford cricket ground, she organized for the benefit of the Manchester attack victims.
It was a star-studded show including performances from the likes of Katy Perry, Niall Horan, Liam Gallagher, Miley Cyrus, Black Eyed Peas and Pharrell Williams.
“Thank you so much for coming together and being so loving and strong and unified,” Ariana told the 50,000-strong crowd at the show. “I love you guys so much, and I think the kind of unity you’re displaying is the medicine the world needs right now.”
A minute’s silence was observed before the start of the show in honor of the victims.
Ariana’s mother, Joan, was seen walking through the crowd allowing selfies, talking to teenagers, asking them not fear.
Helen Pidd of the Guardian tweeted: Ariana Grande’s mum is strolling through the crowd telling fans: “do not be afraid.”
Thousands of those who had been at the Arena that wretched evening attended the “One Love” concert in a show of solidarity.
One such individual was eight-year-old Lily Harrison who, along with her parents, had been badly hurt by shrapnel.
In spite of her injuries, she made it a mission to be at the concert – and she was – taking a special bus from the Royal Manchester children’s hospital with two other children from her ward tagging merrily along.
Earlier, during her visit to the children’s ward at the Royal Manchester, Ariana had surprised the girl by appearing at her bedside, unannounced. Lily Harrison had promised the pop star, then, that she would attend the show, and attend she did – a testimony to her determination in the face of adversity.
Prior to the show, it was announced that all those who could provide evidence of their presence at the Arena on May 22, were eligible to apply for free tickets for the fund-raiser. Not surprisingly, 25,000 people applied when actually just about 14,000 had attended – such was the drawing power, not only of the performer but the purpose, as well.
There were many great performances that evening, but the most tear-jerking moment came when the Parrs Wood High School choir and Ariana sang her ballad, My Everything, together.
Well done Ariana Grande! You’ve done your fans, and indeed the world, proud.