The boyfriend of Martyn Hett who died in the Manchester Arena terror attack has posted a touching tribute for him on the fifth anniversary of the bombing. In a social media post addressed to his partner, who was 29 when he died, Russell Hayward has said “my heart will always have a permanent piece missing”.
Mr Hett, a social media manager and Coronation Street superfan, was one of 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert half a decade ago who never came home, and memorial events have taken place across Manchester to remember them. Mr Hayward shared a photograph of himself and Mr Hett, remembering him as someone “with no airs and graces” who “lived life at 100mph”.
He wrote on Instagram: “Five years since I’ve seen you. Five years since I’ve held you. I do not feel like it’s been five years. I feel like it’s been 500 years. I miss going to ridiculously overpriced restaurants with you and me ordering a dessert wine and you asking for a Long Island iced tea.
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He added: “You had no airs or graces. Remember when you got a promotion at work and I bought you a bottle of Dom Perignon? Later that night you said it was lovely what I did but you’d probably prefer 10 bottles of cheap wine for the same price. You were to complete one off. And my heart will always have a permanent piece missing.”
Sunday is the first time in three years that people in Manchester have been able to mark the anniversary free of coronavirus restrictions. It is also the first year that residents have been able to remember the victims at a permanent memorial for them – the Glade of Light Memorial, which was opened by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge earlier this month.
The riverside memorial was the setting for a remembrance service for the victims, and quiet crowds laid flowers on the white marble ring in the center, where the names of the victims are carved in bronze. Manchester Cathedral has been open to mourners while the bells will toll at 10.31pm – the time a bomb was detonated on May 22, 2017.
Meanwhile, more than 20,000 racers in Sunday’s Great Manchester Run gave applause for the victims ahead of the starting pistol. Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and 19-year-old Freya Lewis, who was at the concert five years ago, were among those running.
Mr Burnham led tributes to the victims on Twitter, saying: “Their names forever at the heart of our city. Their families and those affected always in our thoughts. Our thanks for the goodness and strength of the people of Greater Manchester – eternal.” He also showed off a Manchester “worker bee” tattoo on his arm – the symbol of the city.
Ms Lewis, who learned to walk again after suffering multiple injuries, fractures and burns at the bombing, ran for the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity, as staff at the hospital saved her life. The teenager, who used a wheelchair for three months and whose ella best friend Nell Jones, then 14, was killed in the attack, has raised more than £67,000 with her family since the attack.
Cheshire-raised Ms Lewis told BBC Breakfast on Sunday morning that Manchester “means the world to me”. She said: “It’s the most incredible city, I’ll always remember the way it came together and took me in as a Mancunian, as one of their own.”
She also said she would remember Nell Jones “in everything that I do, really. She’s a very unforgettable person, she was just the most wonderful sister to me and someone who will be with me for the rest of my life”. Grande has shared a graphic of 22 bees, each with a victim’s name below, and the words “Manchester remembers” on her Instagram story.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid tribute to the victims and said the courage shown by people in Manchester in the days following the attack had “touched the world”. He said: “Like the country my thoughts are with the victims, families and friends of all those affected by the cowardly attack on Manchester Arena five years ago today.
“This was an act of terrorism against the freedoms we all hold dear, but as the people of Manchester demonstrated so courageously in the days that followed, hatred will never win. The bravery and defiance shown by Mancunians touched the world and just as we remember all those taken from us, we must remember and celebrate that triumph of love and community.”
Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer wrote: “Today we remember the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing, which left thousands injured and 22 innocent lives lost. My thoughts are with their loved ones and the people of Manchester. Your strength showed that hatred will never prevail.”
Liverpool Mayor Steve Rotheram also tweeted: “Five years on from the Manchester Arena bombing, the Liverpool City Region continues to stand together with Manchester and all of those affected by the attack. Today we’ll be keeping the victims and their loved ones – including Liverpool’s Megan Hurley – in our thoughts.”
Along with the 22 bystanders killed five years ago – six of them children – hundreds more were injured.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.