When loud noises and multiple casualties were reported at a concert in Manchester, U.K. late Monday, it wasn't "just" another instance of mass violence visited on unsuspecting civilians. This is why the Ariana Grande concert explosions are especially sinister: they happened in an arena full of kids. Grande's concerts are known for attracting young audiences, with many in attendance under 16. While the cause of the explosions were not immediately reported, if they were perpetrated by a terrorist group, the practice of visiting violence on people who have done nothing to deserve it — innocents — just got taken to that other level, the one we unfortunately already have names for, at least in the United States: Newtown. Columbine.
As Twitter filled with thoughts and prayers, many noted the added layer of horror in the chosen target. While mass killings of civilians have become all too common, in this case the setting of the explosions feels chillingly specific. Everyone knows who goes to an Ariana Grande concert. The arena isn't filled with Gen Xers reliving their Reality Bites years (not that it would be OK if it were). It's filled with people still in braces, some of them probably at their first concert. In some cases, it may be the first time their parents let them go out unchaperoned. Whoever caused Monday night's events surely knew who the casualties were likely to be.
And sure enough, the crowd Monday night was filled with teens, many unaccompanied. Many were reportedly being sheltered at a nearby Holiday Inn:
And even the kids safe at that Holiday Inn, even those who weren't physically injured, will likely be impacted emotionally for a long time.
To say that Monday night's events are every parent's nightmare is a cliché, but in this case it's not. Because an act like this is designed to be exactly that: every parent's nightmare, realized. It's meant not just to hurt those injured and killed, it's meant to send a message to adults all over the world that nothing is sacred and no one is safe; that someone else can smash the thing you love most in an instant, when you least suspect it; that your nightmares can and will be realized. It's an attempt to control by assaulting people not as citizens of any particular nation or adherents to a particular creed or ideology, not as Westerners or policy makers or capitalists, not as opponents in a fair fight. Whoever is behind the concert explosions went after the citizens of Manchester as parents, with the explicit goal of destroying their future, and, by implication, humanity's.
If world leaders accomplish nothing else, surely putting a stop to that is a goal worth pursuing.