Feature | Salford family one year after Manchester Arena bombing

Friday’s mascots will be Jessica, George and Annalisa Gilmore all of whom are Salford Red Devils supporters who were caught up in the devastating attack on the Manchester Arena last year.

None of the family were physically injured in the attack however – like many others – that night has left a lasting effect on the family. Their road to recovery has been assisted by counselling, supporter groups, the Manchester Resilience Hub and CAHMS which have all enabled them to continue to live a life that almost resembles that of their life prior to the tragedy.

Following the attack ten-year-old Annalisa wrote a document named ‘Twisted Courage’ to express how she felt about the attack:

“It was the day of the concert and so many little faces were lit up by the thought of stepping into the wonderous palace otherwise known as Manchester Arena. A crowd, as large as every grain of sand on a beach, were huddled together like a can of sardines. Whilst the security guards stood tall and firm, the excitement was about to explode, I could tell…

“BANG! I’ve never ever heard a noise so startling. A million and one thoughts rushed through my head, then I froze for a split second. My life flashed before my eyes and everything was silent, you could have heard a pin drop! After a long-awaited reaction, well at least what felt long awaited, the Manchester Arena was filled with shrieks…

“My heart skipped a beat. Trying desperately to stay calm my hands was clenched tightly to my mothers. My heart sunk to the bottom of my stomach when I saw the things that scared me the most. A little girl hiding under the sauce table stared, crying her little heart out. She looked me right in the eye, it was like she was talking to me. Of course, we didn’t stop because it’s natural, but I regret it every day.”

Mascots Jess and George Gilmore attended games at the final season at The Willows and experienced their first-ever away game at tonight’s opponents Huddersfield. Annalisa’s favourite game is last year’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final and while the atmosphere may have played a role in this it was also the first time since the Manchester Arena attack that the family had been to an event together.

Parents Dean and Elaine are both synonymous with sport in Salford currently working as part of the ‘School Sport Partnerships in Salford’ based at All Hallows RC High School working with 72 primary schools to develop PE and School sport; Elaine was even Head Coach Ian Watson’s boss at one point.

Dean Gilmore said: “Salford RLFC has been part of my family since the 1930’s. The Willows holds some special memories both happy and said.

“Family is so important, and the events of 22nd May 2017 brought that into sharp focus. Although forever changed, my girls came home that night and unfortunately 22 families didn’t have their loved ones come home and they will always be uppermost in our thoughts.

“Tonight, is an opportunity to create a new and happy memory for my girls as they continue with their recovery and the rest of their lives. I would like to place on record a sincere thank you for the work of the Manchester Resilience Hub and to all that have helped countless families in the past year.”