Mum caught up in Manchester bombing vows not to let terrorists win
Nicola Watson of Ightenhill, Burnley, was leaving the MEN arena with her daughters Alice (15) and 12-year-old Emily at the end of the Ariana Grande concert when the explosion ripped through the venue.
Nicola said: "We were making our way up the stairs and the music was playing but the lights were off when all of a sudden there was a massive explosion.
"For a moment there was dead silence as everyone looked at each other because we did not really know what had happened.
"It was very surreal but within seconds people started screaming, crying and running, it was total chaos which was made worse when a woman behind me said "he's got a gun.'
"The explosion had gone off in the foyer and all the people who had made their way out there or to the section just outside the arena where the kiosks are had started flooding back into the arena."
Nicola and her girls, along with Alice's pal Holly Needham, had to fight their way to the kiosk area where they saw one of the victims, a man, running towards them with his face covered in blood.
Nicola (44) said: "There were coats and belongings all over the place where people had just dropped them and run.
"I told the girls we had to stick together and get out as quickly as we could so we just kept on running."
Nicola praised stewards at the venue who she said were quick to direct people to safety, contrary to several reports in the national media that they were nowhere to seen.
Nicola said: "That is not true at all. The stewards were everywhere trying to reassure people and telling them to keep calm and get to safety.
"They must have been just as scared as us."
Once outside Nicola managed to get to her car which was in the Victoria Station car park next door to the arena, moments after she heard a second explosion.
She said: "At that point there were no police cordons anywhere because it had literally just happened but I did hear a second explosion although this does not appear to have been reported."
Both pupils at Blessed Trinity RC College in Burnley, where Alice has just been appointed as headgirl, the incident has left them traumatised, Nicola said.
She added: "We have spoken about and we are still coming to terms with it because the explosion happened in the area where we would have been if we had left two minutes earlier.
"At the moment neither of the girls ever want to go to Manchester or to a concert again but I have told them we can't let these people win.
"I go to concerts regularly at the MEN and was only there last week to see Take That.
"We must carry on living our lives as normal."