A Halifax mum has spoken of the terrifying moment a suicide bomber unleashed a barbaric terror attack which left 22 people dead.
Thousands of young people turned out to see US pop starlet Ariana Grande perform at the Manchester Arena on Monday evening.
But what should have been an exciting night to remember ended in unthinkable tragedy when 22-year-old Salman Abedi detonated a home-made device as fans left the concert.
Heidi Hemblys, 43, of Siddal, was at the concert with her two young daughters Nell, 10, and Nevie, nine, who had had tickets bought for their birthday.
The family were getting ready to leave the arena at the end of the concert when the horror began to unfold.
Mrs Hemblys said: “Just as we were bending down to pick our bags up, there was this really loud bang. Personally, I thought it was a bomb straight away. We looked to where the noise came from and everybody was just running back in, screaming.
“To protect the children, other parents were saying ‘oh it was just balloons’. It was horrendous, it was chaos. People were running everywhere and screaming.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever taken the girls to something like that by myself. I just needed to keep hold of them and make sure I didn’t lose them.
“To lose them in a crowd like that, it happened to so many people. I can’t begin to imagine.”
She said the arena shook from the force of the bomb and it was a blur as she held on to her girls to escape.
“We went to this fire exit. The guys who were holding the door for us were just as calm as anything,” she said.
“I read on the wall ‘evacuation route’ and it just seemed to go on forever. It seemed to be such a long time getting out.
“I was just thinking that if they had targeted one entrance, they could do another entrance. That was all that was going through my mind - what if another one goes off?
“I had hold of the girls. They were terrified, crying, shaking. I don’t know Manchester well at all, so we were just out of this door in some sort of alleyway.
“I had completely lost my bearings - there was just police everywhere, ambulances everywhere, people crying, screaming, trying to phone their parents.
“One boy, he had his friends with him and he was just inconsolable, saying ‘I’ve seen them, I’ve seen them’, ‘I’ve seen them all laying there covered in blood’.
“It was at that point I realised the extent of it. We hadn’t seen anything, we hadn’t seen any blood or anybody injured, we had just heard it and seen the chaos and got caught up in that.
“There was people limping, people talking about these bodies and blood.”
After getting to safety, salon owner Mrs Hemblys knew she needed to get back to her hotel with Nell and Nevie, who she says were “distraught” as they made their way through the city.
She said: “It was chaos. There were thousands of people on the street and sirens everywhere. I don’t know how I got back to the hotel.
“It just seems a bit of a blur. I just couldn’t believe it, you don’t expect to get caught up in anything like that.
“I wanted to be home, you always think there’s going to be another one.”
Mrs Hemblys described her girls as being “brilliant” in the aftermath of the deadly atrocity and that her thoughts were with those who lost their lives.
“It breaks my heart,” she said. “I got upset when I saw it on the news. The eight-year-old girl who has been killed.
“You just put yourself in that position. I’m just so fortunate that we got out safe. There’s thousands of others that did, but for those unfortunate ones who didn’t, you just think you go there for a really nice night and it ends like that.”
Countless others across the area were caught up in the devastation.
One of those was Queensbury dad Andrew Senior, who dashed to Manchester in a desperate bid to find his family who had been at the concert.
The Conservative councillor for the village was reunited with his wife Natalie and two daughters Eve, 14, and Emelia, 11, outside the arena.
His wife and one daughter were in an ambulance being treated for cuts and bruises.
Emelia said: “We ended up leaving early because everyone had gone off the stage.
“We walked out, we’d gone through the gates to actually go out, suddenly something really hot just flew over us and behind me and my sister and we all dropped to the floor.
“I couldn’t really hear anything it was just really scary.”
Mr Senior said: “We’re the lucky ones. I think they have got a lot more serious things to contend with.”
His wife was last night recovering in hospital in Bolton. Eve was being treated at hospital in Manchester