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1996: 'The whole city shook'

The bomb that exploded in the centre of Manchester on 15 June 1996 was the second largest used by the IRA in an attack on the British mainland.

Although no one was killed in the blast, the device caused massive damage to the Arndale shopping centre - smashing almost every window in a half-mile radius.

And the explosion was so powerful it could be heard several miles away.

Police managed to evacuate 75,000 people from the busy shopping area after receiving a warning, but 200 people were still injured in the attack.

Your stories:

I was working for the Co-op Bank at the time and after the blast I remember the windows shaking and we were all transferred to a secure underground safe haven.

We must have spent hours down there, waiting for the all clear and then when we were finally allowed out.

Manchester was like a ghost town.

Only the police roadblocks remained and a little smoke to break the eerie silence.

I have never seen Manchester so quiet either before or since the bombs. The memory will stay forever.

I could not get my car from the Miller Street car park and there was no public transport so I was stranded along with my work colleagues for several hours before being able to go home.

I remember borrowing a torch to check my car and those of friends before we felt safe to drive away.

I am amazed that 13 years have passed, it still seems like yesterday.
Corinne, England

My husband phoned me from work to ask where our 14-year-old daughter, Lucy, was.

I told him she's gone to Manchester with her friends.

Shortly after he arrived home and told me about the bomb, he had seen the smoke from the roof of his office in Salford Quays.

There was no way in or out of Manchester. We had to wait for her to call, it was terrifying.

She eventually did - it had taken so long as the queues for the public phones were so long - not so many mobiles then.

She was obviously in shock. She had been outside Kendals on Deansgate and blown off her feet.

The windows had blown in and she saw a woman with glass stuck all over her face. She said for a moment after the explosion it went deathly quiet and then mayhem broke out.

She got part of the way home, phoned again and my husband went to collect her. She was disorientated and broke down.

I will never, ever forget that day or forgive the people who did it or accept Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness in government.

The IRA were as ruthless as any Islamic terror organisation. I thank God my daughter lived to tell the tale.
Irene, UK

I was working as a store manager within the Arndale Centre on the day the bomb went off.

The first indication we had of any problem was the coded messages given out by the Centre management for the store staff to search for suspicious packages. It was strange because the message was repeated several times.


" Even at the distance I was I could feel the blast and debris rained down into the road behind the police van "

Robert, UK

Our evacuation meeting place was the car park outside Victoria station but with the police helicopter hovering ahead this felt far too close to the scene.

The store assistant manager and myself headed up towards the junction of Corporation Street where a police van was parked with an Officer attempting unsuccessfully to stop some people heading towards the incident.

Once the nearest pub opened my assistant went, in his words to, "put a few walls between himself and the bomb" and jovially told the landlord to expect it to become quite busy soon.

Just prior to the explosion I was standing in the doorway of an office opposite the pub, with a good view all the way down to the bomb.

I was looking over the heads of people who had also stopped at the top of the road and watched as the bomb disposal robot approached the vehicle.

A few minutes later it exploded with a huge cloud of flames and dust rising up and across the road to the Arndale Centre.

Even at the distance I was I could feel the blast and debris rained down into the road behind the police van, a window was smashed in the office of whose doorway I was standing.

Alarms and sirens were ringing whereas most people were shocked into silence.

I am still amazed that no one was killed that day.
Robert, UK

I lived about half a mile from the city centre when the bomb went off.

I thought someone had kicked the front door in on my flat until I saw the pall of smoke in the distance.

My girlfriend at the time was at a wedding in the CIS building not far from where the bomb went off.

It took me two hours to get to her house, and another four to find out she was safe and uninjured.

I was a student with a part-time job at BHS. I shouldn't even have been working on that Saturday but offered to cover for a friend as I needed the cash.


" All of the windows blew out and there was loads of smoke - it was like something out of an action film "

Anne, England

I went into town early so I could have a wander round the shops but when I got off the bus I noticed that there was a weird atmosphere and the police helicopter was circling over the Arndale.

I asked the security guard what was going on and he told me that there was a bomb scare and that all my colleagues had been evacuated to Piccadilly gardens and that I had to report there.

I stood having a chat with him for a bit and then all of a sudden, chaos erupted, people were surging up market street shouting and all I could hear was: "Run run, run!"

I started off running towards the gardens and as I got there I turned to look down Market Street.

As I did this, I saw clouds of smoke billowing, enveloping shops and there was an almighty shake and then came the bang. It shook my bones and threw me on the floor.

I looked over towards Lewis's and noticed that it actually shook from side to side. All of the windows blew out and there was loads of smoke, it was like something out of an action film.

For a couple of seconds afterwards there was an eerie silence as people were on the floor in shock and then all you could hear was the shop alarms howling, it was a horrible noise and we knew that something terrible had happened. After that it was awful, people were running around in panic, some people had been injured by flying glass and were in shock. We were evacuated from Piccadilly Gardens as there was a bomb alert.

We went towards Piccadilly Station but there was another alert there so we went to China town but there was another one there. It was pandemonium.

There was glass everywhere, people looked lost and disorientated and town looked completely broken.
Anne, England

I was in Manchester the day of the bomb, buying a birthday present for my girlfriend Karen.

I actually walked past the truck (crossing over from the bottom end of Market Street) and remember thinking: "What a place to park a truck, some people only think of themselves." How true that really was!

I left Manchester as the shoppers were being evacuated from the Arndale and was unable to drive down the road where the truck was parked.

Little did I know it would be that vehicle that would cause the death (and subsequent re-birth) of what was a very tired part of Manchester.
Mark Sheridan, UK

My wife and I walked out of Boots to find a deserted road, and actually walked past the van before finding the police cordon.

As soon as I realised what was happening, I decided to leave the city - how could the police know how far away was safe? Of course they couldn't. We heard the bomb from two miles away. We were very lucky.
Simon T, UK

I remember the day well.

Though personally not in the city centre, I was waiting to start work in a supermarket petrol station with an attached M&S store. The bomb had gone off some 40-odd minutes earlier and rumours had started to circulate as they do.

All I can remember was an empty feeling expecting the worst and thinking I'll be selling papers later on today with tallies of how many killed or injured, and also that my beloved playground had been vandalised.

In a way though the re-birth of the city is second to none and no-one had to pay that price with their life.

It made me chuckle the current Arndale advert at the time was "expect the unexpected"!
James, UK

I was amazed how a bomb blast of this scale could affect the surrounding buildings in such different ways.

Some buildings that were closer to the blast remained relatively undamaged (remember the post box that never got a scratch but that was within 10 feet of the van that blew up).

And yet the blast force blew doors and windows out of buildings much further away as the air bounced around the streets.

As a surveyor, we had a lot of work to do at the time but our work load was nothing compared to the glaziers who were coming in from all over the country to replace thousands of square metres of glass.

It's an accepted fact that the bomb was a major catalyst in the rejuvenation of the city centre at that time.
Chris Jones, England

I was sitting on my bed in my 13th-floor flat in Salford (two miles from the city centre), with my back to the window, which faced the city centre.

All of a sudden a flash of light entered the room, followed by a loud bang a second or two later. The bang sounded like an air-bomb firework has exploded immediately outside my window!

I then saw a pillar of smoke rising from the city centre, assumed that a bomb had exploded and feared the worst.

After refreshing the Ceefax new headlines page for half an hour, the headline I was expecting appeared.

A day I'll never forget, and I wasn't even in the city centre.
Dave H, UK

I wanted to do a bit of shopping in Manchester city centre on Saturday, 15 June 1996. I was 38 weeks pregnant (my son was born two weeks later) and wanted to buy a few things.

I took my two-year-old daughter with me, so that my husband could get on with some work at home. I planned to go to a couple of shops including Marks and Spencer, but I was running late.

By the time we arrived in the city centre it was hot and I was feeling tired. I began to think the whole trip was a mistake, especially as the streets seemed to be particularly crowded with people. I wondered if there was a parade on or something.

Still, I decided to go into the department store at the top of Market Street. I made my purchases but then everyone was asked to leave the shop. Once outside I wondered what to do, if this was just a security alert, perhaps I would be able to continue my shopping soon.

While I stood there, the bomb went off, at the other end of Market St, less than half a mile away. I saw the explosion, then just after, heard the noise. At first I thought it might be a controlled explosion, but then it occurred to me that there were far too many people around for that to have happened.

But still, people were standing around wondering what had happened, wondering what to do next. Just then a man walked past and called out, "Are you all mad? Don't you realise there could be another bomb? Go home!"

I realised what he said could be true - we could still all have been in danger from a second bomb. I turned round and caught the train home, fortunately the trains and buses were running at that end of town.

I tried to phone my husband but got our answering machine. He was working at home on the computer with headphones on, so hadn't heard the phone. But he had felt the explosion, five miles from our house.

When we moved away from Manchester they were still working on rebuilding the city centre. I haven't seen the results. I hope there is something to mark the spot of the explosion. Manchester was lucky no one died that day.
Elspeth Rae, France

My sister and I sat our music theory exam in Bury that morning, and were thinking about going into Manchester shopping. The Metrolink ticket machine had a handwritten sign saying, "Service terminating at Woodlands Road due to bomb scare".

Thinking nothing of it, we got the tram back to Radcliffe and sat down to watch the England-Scotland match. At half-time, I mentioned to my mum, "Have you heard about the bomb scare?" She just looked at me and said, "Scare? Half of Manchester has gone."

On the Sunday, I went to the Manchester Youth Games to play rugby. My team-mates were all at the Armitage Centre the day before, and told of a great cloud of smoke on the horizon. They had only found out what had happened later that evening.
Susan, Manchester

I was there with my friends on that day, and I thought the whole operation was handled very well by the police.

I didn't sense any panic whatsoever, and it was only when we were made to get on a bus home that we felt the blast. Waiting at the lights, the explosion occurred and I'm sure the bus moved from the shock waves.

I didn't even know what was happening until I looked to the side at my friend sitting next to me and saw all the smoke and broken windows flying through the air.

When things like that happen you start thinking. What if that bus hadn't drove by us? What if we were still near the centre thinking it was a hoax? Scary stuff, but I guess things will get worse before they get better.
C. Ford, England


" We actually drove past the lorry with the bomb in it "

Brian Ramsbottom

I am a BT engineer and was working on that day. A colleague and I had to visit Dial house on Chapel Street, just around the corner from the bomb location. Because of the one-way traffic system at the time, we actually drove past the lorry with the bomb in it, just minutes before police began arriving to close the area off.

Later in the morning, having heard the reports of a bomb being found in the Arndale centre, we were working in our office in Swinton, and being a warm day, we had the windows open. There was a sudden strong breeze followed by the very loud sound of the explosion some three miles away.

I telephoned my wife at home in Dukinfield, eight miles from the blast, and asked had she heard the explosion. She had! But had not known what it was.
Brian Ramsbottom

I was sitting at home and heard the news that there had been a bomb explosion in Manchester. I decided not to go into Manchester that day, but later in the week I went to see the site and the devastation.

Large areas of the city were cordoned off and buildings ripped apart - I saw a German visitor who was holding a camcorder and shouted at him: "Have you no shame? What are you doing?"


" You may be able to bomb the heart out of Manchester, but you cannot bomb the heart out of a Mancunian "

Ian Maso, United Kingdom

He told me that he wanted to video it for his family. I was angry and annoyed at him, and at the perpetrators of this damage.

You may be able to bomb the heart out of Manchester, but you cannot bomb the heart out of a Mancunian. There was a determination that they will not win.

Six years later and regeneration has happened. We had an excellent and wonderful Commonwealth Games - it will be talked about for years to come that Manchester did the north-west and Britain proud. We can hold our heads up high.
Ian Maso, United Kingdom

I remember hearing the blast, although I lived eight miles from the city centre. When it was finally broadcast on the news I spent the next hour trying to locate my father who was working in the city centre.

He described how the whole city shook, almost as if an earthquake had hit Manchester. With hindsight, it was the best thing that ever happened to Manchester. The city has had new life breathed into it - and the city centre now looks a very pleasant place.
Dan Abbott, UK

I was working for the fashion store Aquascutum, in St Ann's Square. At about 1050, I and three other colleagues decided to close the store and make our way towards Deansgate. The cordon was being moved further and further back as the crowds kept mounting in size.


" We were thrown to the floor by the blast "

Nick Williams, United Kingdom

At 1120, we were about to move out of the cafe we had been waiting in, when the bomb went off.

We were thrown to the floor by the blast, and I distinctly remember the side windows of the Kendal's department store blowing straight across the street, with the glass hitting all the people waiting along the cordon.

When I saw all those who got hit were lying on the floor, it looked like they had all been killed. There were people wandering around with the most horrible injuries and wounds. It was the most dreadful experience you could possibly imagine to see.
Nick Williams, United Kingdom

My wife and I will always remember this day for two reasons. First, because of the bomb, and second, because we got married in a church just outside Manchester in the afternoon.

My wife was in the city centre getting her hair done with her sister. Meanwhile, I was looking after her (mainly Irish) relatives in the pub in a village called Bowdon, just near Manchester airport.


" My wife explained to a policeman she had to leave to get to the wedding "

Gavin Critchley, UK

When the news came on the TV, I kind of went into shock. I called up my wife on her mobile and said, "Are you in this?" and she said "Yes".

She and her sister were downstairs in the hairdressers and had seen the sheet glass window bow with the pressure wave, but thankfully it didn't break.

She explained to a policeman she had to leave to get to the wedding, and so they rushed her out of the danger area.

A passer-by offered to help, and drove her back to my parents house in Altrincham... and never accepted any cash, nor left their name.

The events in the morning put a different take on the wedding!
Gavin Critchley, UK

My dad and I were in the garden that day, it was unusually warm.

Suddenly we heard a low rumble - my dad joked that it was thunder, which was ridiculous because it was clear blue sky all around.

It was only later that we found out the loud rumble was in fact the bomb going off, about 10 miles away in the city centre. Even that far away the sound was incredible.
Dave Scally, UK

I was living just outside the city centre at the time and my girlfriend, who lived in Bury, was at a wedding in the CIS insurance building [a few hundred yards from where the bomb exploded].

I had to walk nine miles to her house where I waited six hours to hear if she had been hurt. Luckily everyone at the wedding had escaped injury.
Andie Riley, England

I was working about a mile away in Ducie Street, fitting a door alarm system with a colleague. Suddenly the rear door flew open setting off the alarm system that we had just installed; we rushed around to the back because we thought that someone had kicked the door in, but there was no-one there.

We looked around and in the distance we could see a glittering mushroom cloud rising above the Arndale Centre; the cloud was glittering because of all the paper blown out of the offices by the bomb.

The next hour was total chaos as police helicopters flew around giving confused instructions on where to go, as they believed that there might be more bombs in the area.
Paul Stancer, UK


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