A year after the Manchester Arena bomb attack during which 22 people were killed and more than 800 injured, a Ribble Valley family continue to rebuild their lives.
Ruth and Emily Murrell, of Copster Green, were both seriously injured when suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated a home-made device at an Ariana Grande concert on May 22nd, 2017.
Both Ruth (47) and Emily (13), who is a pupil at St Augustine’s RC High School at Billington, spent six weeks in the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital after the attack – between them having 10 operations to remove shrapnel from their bodies.
During the bombing, a bolt travelled 15cms through Ruth’s leg while Emily suffered seven shrapnel wounds from flying debris.
A year on and the mother and daughter have received hours of therapy after being diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and are still undergoing counselling.
And on the anniversary of the attack today, Ruth and Emily declined an invitation to the memorial service at Manchester Cathedral – the thought of being in the city still filling them both with dread.
They instead opted to have a day trip to Blackpool Pleasure Beach where they hoped to make happy rather than sad memories.
“We wanted to turn what will be a really sad day into a happy day making happy memories,” said Ruth, who was waiting in the foyer of the Manchester Arena to pick up Emily when the bomb exploded.
Suffering from regular flashbacks of what they had seen that evening, both Ruth and her daughter from October last year to February this year, have been receiving eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy to help them cope.
“Since having that therapy we both have much clearer heads and don’t feel as traumatised. I can now watch programmes about the attack, but neither of us can still go into Manchester,” said Ruth.
Both Ruth and Emily are still undergoing treatment for their injuries, with Emily, who, following the attack, had to wear a pressure boot to repair the bones in her leg and ankle that were shattered, booked in for a hospital appointment next month, while Ruth, who was left with two holes in her leg after the attack, undergoing three more operations in October.
“Although there are not many positives that you can take from such a horrific experience, the people that we have met and the friendships that we have made with other victims have been priceless,” said Ruth.
Following the attack Ruth and Emily have become close to Sally Lawler and her son Adam, from Tottingham in Bury. Adam was at the concert with his best friend Olivia Campbell-Hardy who was one of those who lost their lives. The two families have supported each other since that horrendous evening with Emily and Adam becoming good friends.
“They completely understand what each other are going through,” said Ruth, who added that the two families were going to Blackpool Pleasure Beach together today.
Ruth, who has left her job as a doctor’s receptionist, is also now volunteering for the charity Survivors Against Terror Group.
Set up by British survivors of terrorism, the group aims to influence Government policy on counter-terrorism and provide support for victims.
Ruth and Emily also attended the Pride of Britain Awards in November last year after being asked to help present an award to the medics who battled to save them.
“What we experienced that evening changed everything and has put everything into perspective,” said Ruth.
“Rather than spending three quarters of an hour getting to and from work, I now want to spend that time with my family. What happened has completely changed my priorities in life.
“Yes what happened was hideous and even now I still cannot comprehend what happened, but it has made us stronger as a family and determined to live life to the full.
“It was a life changing moment and Emily and I feel that we have been given a second chance of going out there and living life.”
The aftermath of the attack has affected the entire Murrell family with Ruth’s husband Dave (48), and 15-year-old daughter Jessica, who is also a pupil at St Augustine’s, also undergoing counselling.
And for Ruth and Emily the recovery process is still ongoing.
“Forensics gave us a big box of stuff that they had collected from that night – my handbag, shoes, even the jeans that had to be cut off me. We’ve had it since March and I just told Dave to put it down in the cellar as I can’t bear to look at it yet although it may become part of the healing process in the months and years to come.”