Crowds gathered in the hometown of Saffie Rose Roussos to pay tribute those killed in Monday’s terror attack at Manchester Arena.
Community leaders in Leyland called for the town to choose love as it came together united in grief for Saffie, eight, and Georgina Callendar, 18, from nearby village Hesketh Bank, who died as they left the Ariana Grande concert.
In a message read by Rev David Gibb, of St Andrew’s Church, Leyland, Georgina’s mum Leslie Callendar, said: “Thank you so much for the vigil. All your thoughts and well wishes are appreciated.
“Our beautiful daughter will be looking down with her usual big smile.
“Lots of love and many thanks.”
Flowers left by mouners
More than 1,000 people attended the vigil in Worden Park, Leyland, many in tears as pink balloons filled the sky in memory of Saffie, Georgina and the victims of Monday’s attack.
The Mayor of South Ribble, Mike Titherington, said: “When tragedy strikes as it did in Manchester on Monday it is easy to be overcome by despair.
“We condemn the mindless acts of violence that inflict so much pain and we are rightly shocked and appalled.
“We want to show our support and solidarity with all those who are suffering such pain.
“We want to do something and sometimes we don’t know exactly what to do.
“If we could heal the heartache, we would.
“If we could turn back the clock so that it never happened, we would, but we can’t.
“What we can do – and whatever we do will seem inadequate – but what we can do is come together like this as a community and strengthen our bonds, unite in our defiance of evil and strengthen our determination in the values we hold dear: tolerance, respect, human dignity and compassion.”
Georgina Callandar died after the explosion at Manchester Arena
Messages of love and support were read by Fr Jonathon Cotton, of St Mary’s RC Church; Rev David Gibb, of St Andrew’s Church; Sandra Crawford, of Leyland Baptist Church.
In a message from the Muslim community, Maulana Abdul Qadeer, said: “No parent should have to bury a child and especially not as a result of the deplorable and mindless actions of a madman acting on his own, not in the name of Islam.
“As a scholar, I say on behalf of Muslims worldwide, we condemn all such actions.
“The night of May 22, 2017, will be deeply etched into our memories forever. Manchester was once previously rocked by IRA bombings in 1992. It took decades for that wound to partially heal and now this.”
Quoting the Quran, Qadeer said: “ If anyone killed to cause mischief in the land it would be as if he had killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if the had saved all the lives.”
He added: “Our hearts go out not only to the families of Saffie and Georgina, snatched before their time but to the other innocents and their families whose lives were stolen that night. Our deepest sympathies are conveyed to all.
Flowers for the victims
“Acts like this will not divide us, but will, we hope, bring us closer together.
“Acts like this are not committed in the name of Islam. The mindlessness of psychopaths and lunatics should never be reason to drive us apart.”
Members of the emergency services paraded onto the park as a minute’s silence was held to honour Saffie, Georgina, and those killed and injured.
As the silence came to an end, the crowd cheered in thanks for the men and women who worked round the clock to help in the aftermath of the bombing.
Emergency services during the minute’s silence
As the vigil came to an end, mourners lay flowers, teddies and candles in tribute to Saffie and Georgina, and signed books of condolence, which will be presented to the girl’s families.
Ariana Grande’s song, One Last Time, brought many of the crowd to tears as they remembered the former Tarleton Community Primary School pupil and Runshaw College student, who were killed as they left the concert.
An appeal to raise money for the families of the victims of the Manchester bombing has been set up and has topped the £1.5million mark. You can donate here.