Father of Manchester bomb blast survivor: You can sense the commotion over the phone...but you’re helpless

Hugh Harkin Assistant Manager Derry City. DER0616GS
Hugh Harkin Assistant Manager Derry City. DER0616GS

The father of a young Derry woman who luckily survived the Manchester Arena bomb attack has spoken of trying to comfort his terror-stricken daughter by telephone just moments after Salman Abedi blew himself up killing 22 young people leaving a concert she had been working at on Monday night.

Sarah Harkin, aged 21, was making her way home following a gig by US pop singer Ariane Grande when Abedi detonated an explosive device he had been carrying in the foyer of the venue behind her.

Seconds later Sarah’s father Hugh Harkin took a panicked phone call and for the next few hours tried to reassure his daughter that everything was going to be alright.

“Sarah had just left the arena and was making her way out when the explosion happened,” Mr. Harkin told the ‘Journal’.

“She came on the phone to us in a terrible state. We were trying to calm her down and she was being told to try to get away from the arena as far as she could.

“She was really, really upset to be honest, as you can imagine. All those emotions go through your head.

“You’re trying to calm her down and to make sense of it and at the same time, you are worrying, because you’re not there and you don’t know the situation.

“You’re hearing sirens in the background and stuff like that. You can sense the commotion through the phone, but to be at the other end it’s very hard because you’re powerless basically, helpless, you know.”

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, with Sarah still on the phone, Mr. Harkin explained how every single eventuality ran through her anxious parents’ minds.

Where there other bombers, gunmen, waiting to strike?

“You’re watching every report coming in. Although you know she’s safe you’re waiting to hear if there’s going to be something else.

“You’re talking to her the whole way home until she gets where she stays and just hoping nothing else happens.”

Mr. Harkin said Sarah had been due to work at the arena during a series of now cancelled Take That concerts this weekend.

However, after the events of Monday, she was put on the first available plane home.

“We just got her on a flight right away,” said Mr. Harkin.

“We were lucky. We got the phone call that people would have loved to have got. We know it was traumatic at the time but everything’s grand.

“When you sit back eventually you think how lucky you were.”