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British Swimmer Michael Gunning Recounts Manchester Arena Bombing


The investigation is continuing into the bombing at last night's Ariana Grande a concert in Manchester, England. In a moment, we'll hear from the head of the National Counterterrorism Center here in the U.S. First, a young man who was at the concert when the explosion happened, professional swimmer Michael Gunning. I began by asking Gunning to describe the feeling in the stadium before the attack.

MICHAEL GUNNING: The atmosphere was amazing. You know, Ariana Grande, she was amazing live. Everybody was so happy. You know, there were so many younger kids just enjoying themselves. And that was the last thing anyone of us, like, expected to happen, you know? We was all just singing and dancing. And before we had the explosion, everyone was just so happy. It's just so hard.

SHAPIRO: And what happened in that moment?

GUNNING: So Ariana Grande, like, she finished her last song, and the lights went out. So kind of everyone stood up, you know, to get ready to leave. And, you know, as we were walking, we just kind of got to the end of that stairwell to walk up in the stadium. And we just heard this massive explosion, this massive noise. It was about 30 meters away.

Me and my best friend and - I wasn't facing the explosion, but my friend was. And he just - his face - I could just - I knew that something was wrong. And suddenly everybody just started to run for their life and climbing over chairs, pushing and shoving.

And it never really hit me, you know, what had happened until I saw, you know, one of the - those two women who was absolutely splattered in blood. And at that moment, I knew it, you know - it was life or death.

SHAPIRO: And so you ran out of the concert venue, onto the street?

GUNNING: We ran trying to, like, get to the other side of the stadium. So we just kind of followed the crowd, and everybody was sobbing. You know, kids were crying. And, you know, we walked past the paramedics, and there was about four people just covered in blood, just screaming and crying. And, you know, our only instinct was to get out and just be safe.

SHAPIRO: You said kids were crying. I know you're in your early 20s. Is that right?

GUNNING: Yeah, early 20s. But there was 15-year-olds, you know, 14-year-olds, as well, that were just, you know - that was asking their mom what was happening. And, you know, in that moment, you - you just - you're so happy that you're still alive. And you're just trying to find safety and, you know, to see all these scenes and children crying and, you know - everybody goes to Ariana Grande. There was 13-year-olds to, you know, 30-year-olds. It was such a massive audience that it's just - it was horrible to see.

SHAPIRO: What does Manchester feel like today?

GUNNING: Everything - it's very, very quiet - just doesn't feel the same. It's just sort of hard. Everyone just can't believe it. And, you know, going on social media and seeing all the big celebrities, you know, putting pictures up and - pray for Manchester - it's - it feels so weird to have been caught up in it all.

SHAPIRO: A lot of people have been talking about resilience and Manchester coming back stronger than before, returning to business as usual as quickly as possible. But it doesn't sound like that's where you are just yet.

GUNNING: No, I think it's going to take a couple of days just to actually come to terms with what's happened. And, you know, I'm sure we will, like London, everywhere, it's - you know, we all come together when it matters most.

SHAPIRO: Michael Gunning, I'm very sorry for what you've been through, and I appreciate your sharing your story with us. Thank you.

GUNNING: No worries. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.