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St Ann’s Square: The place where Manchester came to grieve

A vigil is held for the victims of the bombing. Credit: PA

Ashen-faced and teary-eyed they stood, still struggling to comprehend what had happened to their city.

Many waited patiently in the blistering heat to add to the mountain of flowers, teddy bears, balloons and cards that have transformed St Ann's Square into a shrine to those who went to a pop concert and never came home.

The square has become the epicentre of Manchester's grief; a place where the raw emotion is so potent it almost consumes you the moment you enter its vicinity.

“Mummy, are people putting flowers down because of that bomb?" one five-year-old boy was heard asking.

Other children - some no older than eight-year-old Saffie Roussos, the youngest victim of the atrocity - gripped their mothers' hands tightly, confused as to why an individual would want to tear so many lives apart.

Lives like Simon Callander’s.

As he read tributes to his 18-year-old daughter Georgina at the vigil, he noticed a distressed mother hugging her son on the other side of the rope line.

The grief-stricken father turned to her, placed his arm on her shoulder and calmly said: “Look after him, because you never know.”

He walked on to comfort his wife and son, leaving the woman and police family liaison officer in tears.

Georgina Callander's father comforted this mother and son. Credit: Twitter/Jamie Roberton

It is just one of many moving encounters we have witnessed in this usually bustling area of central Manchester over the past week.

From the heavily-armed policewomen who stopped to reassure a frightened young girl that they were there to protect her, to the crowd who performed an impromptu rendition of Don’t Look Back in Anger - each have provided some comfort to the hundreds who have gathered here.

Police officers speak to a young girl to try and help counter her fears. Credit: Twitter/Emma Murphy

“You almost feel you need to come here to reconcile yourself with what’s happened,” said Val Peates.

She is still struggling to come to terms with the fact that a young man - educated and raised in the city - chose to fill a rucksack with explosives and target the city’s most vulnerable.

“It was someone who was obviously very disturbed who has gone for very soft targets and my heart goes out to their families.

"They were young children from all over the north - it’s just desperately sad.”

Subhir Gangani, who had travelled with his wife to pay his respects, said: “We love Manchester, it’s a great city and we just felt we had to come here.

"I thought there might be a few flowers but this is overwhelming. I’ve never seen so many flowers.

“It’s a sombre mood obviously but I think people will come together - good should come out of this.”

Police were among the mourners in St Ann's Square. Credit: PA
Candles are lit in remembrance of the victims. Credit: ITV News
After a minute's silence was held at the vigil, the mourners broke out in applause. Credit: PA

Amid the trauma and devastation, the very best of humanity has been on display: taxi drivers offered free lifts in the immediate aftermath; nurses rushed into work to comfort those with devastating injuries and homeless men came to the aid of traumatised children.

Jordan Cunningham, wiping tears from his face as he surveyed the sea of tributes with his girlfriend, expressed pride at his city’s response to the tragedy.

But he also served a stark reminder that no amount of tributes, kind words or Oasis songs will provide any sort of permanent pain relief to those mourning loved ones.

“I’m very proud to be from a city that would do this but all the balloons and flowers in the world aren’t going to bring back those 22 lives.”