In a moving interview a 15-year-old survivor of the Manchester Arena attacks and the step mother who had travelled to the Arena to collect her have spoken of their absolute terror at not being able to find each other in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, writes Pam Ryan.
In a story that will resonate with every parent 15-year-old Abigail revealed how she and a friend were unable to find her father, Taz and her step-mother, Janis, following the explosion.
Speaking to Cosmopolitan.com Abigail’s step-mother said she and her husband noticed people racing from the arena when they arrived to pick the girls up at around 10.30pm. Then her daughter called her.
"She was hysterical, talking very fast - almost hyperventilating. We didn’t know where she was at this point," Janis said.
"There was a gentleman parked next to our car and, because we were on speakerphone, he could hear what was being said. And he said to us: ’I’ve just heard an explosion.’"
Abigail told the magazine that she and her friend were about halfway up the stairs on their way out of the venue when they heard a loud bang.
"I knew something awful had happened but I just didn’t want to say so in case it wasn’t true. And then we saw people from closer to [the exits] start running and screaming and falling over seats and things like that."
When they reached an exit the girls were told by security to stay put.
"There were quite a few people screaming and crying and trying to get out - there was this woman with her boyfriend, and she had quite a big gouge taken out of her leg, and it was bleeding everywhere," she said.
"I was in survival mode, my dad says. I was on the phone with him at the time, just crying — I don’t think I could actually get words out.
All the while, Janis and her husband remained unaware of their daughter’s whereabouts.
"Security had shut down the doors where the explosion had happened. But [my husband] obviously saw a lot of people bloody and injured, as did Abigail, and basically a lot of frantic parents trying to find the children and vice versa.
"Everybody was just. . . everywhere, running across the roads, some people very dazed. I saw many girls and boys wandering about and crying, just trying to get away from the arena."
Abigail added: "There were loads of injured people, bleeding people, ambulances, police sirens, shouting and yelling. It was crazy. We didn’t know where we were going; we just followed the crowds because we knew we needed to get away."
Janis still had her daughter on the phoneline, trying to find out where she was. "What can you see? What buildings are around you?" she asked.
She and her daughter were eventually reunited outside of the venue before returning home. Taz did not mention until they were safely at home that he had heard security mention it was the work of a "suicide bomber".
"None of us really slept a great deal that night," Janis said.
The trauma of the night’s events did not seem to hit Abigail until the following day at school.
"It was a lot to deal with - there were people coming up and asking me if I was OK and wanting me to describe what happened. I wanted [support from] my close friends and my family, but I was getting a lot of attention I didn’t want," she said.
"[That morning,] we were in the cafeteria and there was this loud noise and I jumped up and had a bit of a panic attack."
Her step-mother added: "Abigail didn’t eat much at all yesterday and again, none of us slept very well. But we’re a close family and she’s talked about things with us - I think we’ve learned [today] more about [what happened to her] that night, what she actually saw and went through."
Abigail and her friend were reportedly heading for the same exit where the explosion occurred.
"We’ve been very lucky that she got out without being injured," said Janis.
Abigail’s final thought on the events that took place were about the suicide bomber.
"I am angry that this extremist has taken away the experience of my first concert from me - and taken lives.
"I was expecting to walk out of the show singing and dancing and happy, but instead I went out of that arena screaming for help, slipping in blood, my brain frozen in terror."
To read the interview visit Cosmopolitan.com.