Love always wins: a Manchester teenager smiles again

I don’t hate them,” said Emilia. “I just hate what they did.”

Thirteen-year-old Emilia is a beautiful, dark-haired Filipina girl in a blue-and-white dress. She looks deeply traumatised.

She has brought a bouquet to lay at the ever-growing flower shrine in St Ann’s Square, Manchester. She stoops to place it and straightens up slowly, looking slightly absent.

Debbie, a volunteer from a local church in Manchester, has come to support the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team. She gently guides Emilia and her parents to a quiet bench, where a chaplain joins them.

The mother, tear-stained, pulls Emilia close so that their cheeks touch. “We’re so grateful to have our beauty,” she says.

Emilia’s father Ramos begins to talk, and the story emerges. On Monday night Emilia and her nineteen-year-old brother Solomon were at the Ariana Grande concert in the Manchester Arena. The event was coming to an end.

Solomon is normally quick out, but tonight – uncharacteristically – he was taking his time. Brother and sister were walking towards the exit, and were seconds from the door, when the bomb went off in the Foyer.

Emilia became hysterical and stayed that way for the rest of the night. Solomon tried to hold it together for his little sister and managed to call his parents, who by this time had heard the news and were beside themselves. Then he went home and broke down.

Ramos pauses in his account, and the chaplain puts an arm around his shoulder. “I know that God protected us,” says the Filipino. “But I feel for the other parents. It’s like I’ve lost my own children. I’ve tried to stay strong…” Then he too collapses into tears.

Debbie pulls the family into a huddle and speaks a powerful prayer of protection over them as they emerge from the horror. The chaplain softly lays a hand on Emilia’s head and asks Jesus for a deep healing of the trauma.

“I feel a relief now,” says Ramos.

Emilia’s face lightens into a smile.

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.

Names have been changed


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