It has taken me more than 48 hours since the horrific attack on innocent people outside the Manchester Arena on Monday night to write something about the senseless carnage. As the editor of Facility Manager magazine and an employee of the International Association of Venue Managers, I have a vested interest and concern about what happens in the world of public assembly venues. And in this case, I do mean the world.
The tragedy and loss of 22 lives and several more injured happened in the United Kingdom. It could have happened in Garland, Texas, just to use an example (which it did).
On any given night around the world, there are thousands of scheduled events taking place with audiences of all sizes held at venues of all capacities. It is a concert here. It is a soccer match there. It is a car show here. It is an opera there. It is a carnival here. It is a fair there. It is a movie here. It is a church gathering there.
It is people going out to live and love life at the venues our members manage as well as countless other venues who have no idea what IAVM is. That is OK. We are talking about celebrating what we enjoy, going someplace to laugh, cheer, watch, worship, participate. It is the essence of social human existence, something that human beings we need to exist. Social interaction, we call it. Being in a community of like believers and fans.
On this particular Monday night outside this particular arena in this particular city, all of that was brought to a halt in the most unimaginable way possible. A terrorist kills himself in order to also claim innocent lives.
Words really do fail at a time like this. I often thought the phrase “I don’t have the words …” was just a cliché, but when something like this happens, well, what do you say? We support even when we don’t have solutions, at least those of us who are not professionally equipped to address and find solutions when tragedy strikes.
We rightfully say that our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those whose lives were taken as well as the survivors. Please don’t let that become a cliché. If you are not the praying type, then by all means please do have your thoughts with our friends in Manchester. And if you are the praying type, then please have your prayers as ongoing, because these folks do need our prayers for their strength and comfort at this time and going forward.
Several IAVM staff met the morning after the tragedy to discuss our Association’s response. I have never been prouder to be on a staff and team that cares so much about this wonderful industry. We are not venue managers, but I know that each and every individual who works at IAVM deeply cares about not just our members and their venues, but what happens at other venues as well.
As you might expect, our president and CEO, Brad Mayne, has been overwhelmed from media seeking comment, as has Chairman Mark Mettes. Our director of education, Mark Herrera, has given numerous interviews to local and national publications, radio and television. We are fortunate to have someone with Mark’s security background and training on our staff.
In our Tuesday meeting, Mark spoke about how this diabolical act took place after an Ariana Grande concert concluded and people were leaving the venue. We often think about safety and security before an event, from the parking lot to bag searches to magnetometers and more. We don’t want the bad guys in the venue with us, but what about when they are lurking in the shadows outside the building? When the show ends, doesn’t everything seem anti-climactic? The curtain raises. The lights go up. A voice might or might not be on the PA system to tell everyone thank you for coming and to please drive safe on your way home. Aren’t we all supposed to get home when we leave?
I thought back to John Wilborn’s story in the January/February issue of Facility Manager as he recounted the full scope of what happened at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, when two armed terrorists arrived to cause destruction and death as people were leaving that venue following an event. Fortunately, the bad guys were killed by police before they could cause harm.
Unfortunately, the same did not happen this time. Lives were lost, and we mourn and hurt for the senseless violence. But we stand with the city of Manchester, the Manchester Arena, its staff and everyone there who has a role at the facility.
And those bent on violence always need to know this: Manchester, Garland, or anywhere else, the show WILL go on.