Manchester Arena terror attack hero ran into the bomb in ultimate act of courage

Sometimes it is just a smell that can trigger it. Or the sound of a siren in a nearby street.

But two years on from the Manchester Arena attack, hero Daren Buckley is still haunted daily by flashbacks from the scenes of horror he witnessed as he raced back into the arena to try to save the dying and injured.

Daren had been at the Ariana Grande gig with his autistic son Lewis, 22, who is a huge music fan.

Just as they were leaving the arena, Salman Abedi detonated the bomb which claimed 22 lives and injured dozens of others.

But instead of fleeing the arena to safety, Daren ran towards the blast and frantically started to help the wounded, using Ariana Grande T-shirts to try to stem the blood.

Daren, 52, says simply: “I ran into the bomb. I still don’t know to this day why I did it.”


Daren and Lewis were just about to enter the foyer where the bomb went off.

The blast pushed them back into the arena concourse, and left them covered with other people’s blood.

Once Daren, from Swinton, had got Lewis to safety in the disabled access seating area where they had watched the concert, he instinctively ran back into the foyer to help.

He says: “There was just silence. I looked round and all I could see was bodies everywhere.

"I started to run around and reassuring people that help was on is way.

“I saw a merchandise stand where they were selling T-shits. I just ran over and grabbed as many T-shirts and hoodies as I could to use as bandages.

“Some of the injuries people had were immense. The T-shirts we were using as bandages were white, but within minutes they’d be red."

Daren says he carried on trying to help until armed police came to secure and evacuate the area.

He says: “When I got home I just sobbed and sobbed. I broke down on the kitchen floor.

“The past two years have been a challenge, but not as much of a challenge as it has been for those parents who lost their kids.

"I feel guilty because I have still got my son. I would have given my life up for one of those kids who died that day.”

And whilst Daren’s son Lewis has had some specialist counselling, his dad says that he is still waiting for the support he needs.

He says: “I’ve just got on with things. I’ve still not had any counselling – I wasn’t prioritised because I wasn’t injured.

"I was offered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy but it wasn't right for me.

“I still think about it everyday. There are little triggers – sometimes it can be a smell of burning, or if I hear sirens.

"It is like PTSD – I lost all my front teeth from grinding them at night.

"I wake up dripping in sweat after having nightmares, and I’ve been prescribed anti-depressants. But I do worry about another attack.”

Daren bravely went back to the Arena once with the Peace Foundation, which organised supervised trips for people who had been there on the night of the attack.

“Walking back into the foyer was like walking into a mortuary for me,” says Daren.

“It felt so cold and I could picture everything as it was that night.”

But he is trying to find his own peace, and a big part of that was to join the Survivor’s Choir, which is made up of children and families who survived the arena attack.

“The choir has helped immensely,” explains Daren. 

“Just being with other people who understand, who have been through a similar experience as me helps. It is like therapy in itself.

“I love being with the choir. I just get on each day the best I can, some days I don’t want to leave the house. But the best days are when I am with the choir.”

The choir was started by survivors Cath Hill and Carys Crow after they met on a Whatsapp group set up by the police in the aftermath of the attack.

Cath, 44, had taken her son Jake, now 12, to his very first concert when they were caught up in the bomb attack.

The survivors’ guilt Daren describes is something that Cath recognises as well.

She explains: “I held a significant amount of guilt about not helping more on the night, and also that my son and I both walked away when other people didn’t.

"So the choir has helped me feel like I have put my energy into helping people who were affected.

"That has been massively important to me for my own psychological well-being.

“I am a trained social worker and I knew children had been separated from their families.

"Had I not had my own son with me, maybe I could’ve helped. But I didn’t.

"I know it is irrational but I did suffer with that afterwards, I sort of thought maybe I wasn’t the person I thought I was.

“But through the choir it has helped me to channel my energies and create something positive to help others who were affected by the attack.”

The choir performed at the memorial concert on the first anniversary of the attack, and at the Pride of Manchester awards, and have helped to raise money for the charities supporting survivors and their families.

Cath says: “Through the choir the children have had so many positive experiences, which has helped us all enormously.”

Since the bomb, the Manchester Resilience Hub has supported around 3,500 people with psychological help and advice.

And they urge anyone struggling around the two year anniversary to get in touch.

Alan Barrett, consultant clinical psychologist and clinical lead for adults at the Manchester Resilience Hub, said: “The Hub was set up to provide psychological advice and support to everyone affected by the Manchester arena attack.

“It provides a central point and, where needed, our clinicians can refer people onto one-to-one therapy in their local area.

"Waiting times can vary across the country depending on the service or the type of therapy.

“With over 3,500 people supported by the Hub we rely on our clients to contact us if they feel the waiting time is long or the therapy they are offered is not helping, so that we can work with them to find a solution. 

"We know the two year anniversary may be an emotional time for those involved which is completely normal.

"We are here for anyone who needs support; regardless of whether they have been in contact with us before or not.” 

You can get in contact with the Hub by calling 0333 009 5071 or by emailing  [email protected]

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