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Manchester Bomb – Julian’s Story

Today, June 15th 2006, marks ten years since the Manchester Bomb which ripped apart part of our city centre.

Published on June 14th 2006.

Manchester Bomb – Julian’s Story

Today, June 15th 2006, marks ten years since the Manchester Bomb which ripped apart part of our city centre.

Most of us remember where we were when the bomb went off. Some of us were shopping. Some of us were at home and saw the devastation on the news. Some of us were right there in the middle of the action.

Julian Sorfleet worked as a concierge in the Ramada Hotel, and was injured in the bomb blast trying to save a woman. He tells Manchester Confidential his story…

"I have just taken part in a TV program for Granada, who took me back to Manchester for the very first time since a week after the bomb, to show me the new city centre. After 10 long years, I have finally decided to put what I experienced that day into words.

There was a lovely clear blue sky on the morning of Saturday 15th June 1996, as I began work at 7am as a Hotel Concierge in Manchester city centre.

Euro 96 was in full swing, and with the UK as the hosts, there was a match that day at Old Trafford so Manchester was buzzing.

We had a group of Shaolin Monks staying with us at the hotel, who were in Manchester to perform their art at the Manchester Evening News Arena, or the Nynex arena as it was then known.

As usual, we had a busy start to the day, with plenty to do early on. By 9.30am there lots of football fans wanting to go to old Trafford, so Paul the driver was kept fairly busy.

Nick (my brother, who also worked as a concierge at the hotel) and I were enjoying a breather at around 10am, stood outside the main entrance to the hotel on Blackfriars street. It was a perfect summer’s day and there was a really good atmosphere in the city centre, with plenty of shoppers about. Shortly after 10am, Paul came back to the hotel to pick up some more guests to take to Old Trafford. While he waited, he stood talking to myself and Nick for 10 or 15 minutes. This was when we noticed a lot of people coming from the Marks and Spencer’s area and heading towards us.

At that moment, a couple of police cars and vans with blue lights whizzed past us, sirens blaring, in the direction of M&S. One of the M&S staff who we knew came to us and told us that there had been a bomb alert, so they were all being evacuated.

We had as yet had no warning of this, so never acted on it. Paul had a guest to take to football so off he went, and by this time more and more people were heading our way. A uniformed police officer then approached myself and Nick, and asked us to organise a full evacuation of the building, so immediately we went to the Duty Manager and relayed the message from the officer. The Duty Manager however said that he would do nothing of the sort until someone in authority came and told him personally, which to be honest did surprise us, and who were we to argue with management?

The time now was roughly 10.15am and John the duty manager came to the front door, where he saw for himself the evacuation which by now was in full swing. People were hurrying by us, and there was a sense of urgency in the air.

A police officer came to us again to tell us that we must evacuate, and at the same time an India 99 GMP helicopter was directly over us at pretty much roof height, instructing everyone through its loud speaker to leave the area immediately.

As the hotel has 13 stories, it was a big job to ensure that all of the rooms were clear. We were each given a two-way radio, and assigned different parts of the hotel to evacuate. I was sent to the 13th floor, which is where the Shaolin Monks were staying. I started at one end of the 13th floor knocking on their doors and then letting myself into the rooms with the master key. Each room was occupied by a monk, none of whom spoke English, and I had great difficulty in the first few rooms getting them to understand why we needed them out - many just smiled at me!

After what seemed like a long time, I radioed to tell the main reception that I couldn’t get the monks to move, and suggested that we activate the fire alarm, which was promptly done. At last they were moving, although with no sense of urgency. I was joined by another ‘fire warden’ as we were called at times like this, and we proceeded to check and clear each room in the hotel.

It was now about 11.00am and we were back in the reception after clearing the hotel. As I got down to reception I saw my brother Nick leave the building and turn right to run to the evacuation point.

I was about to follow him, when I saw a woman emerge from the stair case. I shouted for her to hurry up, and recognised her as an Air Canada Stewardess who was staying with us. I gave her instructions that she was to turn right and run over the bridge, and she made her way to the main entrance while I was talking to the duty manager and a fire officer.

As I glimpsed to the main entrance however, I saw the stewardess turn left - heading straight into the bomb area. Both myself and the fire officer ran after her, and as we stepped out of the building we saw her, only a few feet out of the main building. We shouted for her to turn round, but as we approached her the air rippled and it felt as though everything was in slow motion. I experienced a blast of wind that felt like I was in a wind tunnel, then the next thing I remember was waking up with a fireman’s oxygen mask on my face.

When I came around I was lying on the floor of the hotel lobby after being pulled out of the street by the fire service. I coughed and was alarmed to see blood splatter the inside of the mask. George, a member of the management team who had stayed in the hotel, was holding the mask on my face and I remember struggling, trying to move and get some sort of sense of reality.

Then a fireman came over and I remember him saying something which I couldn’t make out, but apparently I was given a couple of blasts of oxygen. How long I was there I couldn’t tell you, a police inspector came to me with another police officer and they carried me to Manchester cathedral which was where the casualty point was, from where I was taken to hospital."

Julian has never really been able to recover emotionally since he was injured in the Manchester bomb blast ten years ago, and has suffered from flash backs, nightmares and all of the symptoms associated with post traumatic shock ever since.

Thank you to Julian for telling his story.

Jayne Robinson
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