MANCHESTER NEWS
Selfie may have saved teens

Phoebe (left) and Florence in the picture that might have saved their lives

TWO teenagers pose happily for a selfie at the Manchester Arena.

Three minutes later, Phoebe Besbrode and Florence Brennand, both 17, were heading towards the exit when suicide bomber Salman Abedi blew himself up as the concert of American singer Ariana Grande drew to a close.

Had they not paused to take the picture, the two girls might not have lived to tell the story.

Phoebe’s mother Lara Besbrode, 48, said: “I’m so glad Phoebe is obsessed with taking selfies, it’s ended up saving her life.

“It’s a miracle and it’s even more crazy because I narrowly avoided getting caught in the Soho nail bombings in 1999.

“I was just round the corner when one went off, so we’ve both had a near miss.”

Phoebe, a former Manchester King David High School pupil, told the Jewish Telegraph: “I feared for my life, but knew that I had to remain calm or I could get hurt and die.”

The attack, for which ISIS later claimed responsibility, left at least 22 dead and as many as 120 injured.

Phoebe added: “Flo and I were sitting in block 216, facing the stage, and were leaving towards the McDonald’s exit by the box office.

“We heard a loud bang but thought someone had dropped a piece of equipment so kept going . . . until there was a massive crowd of people running towards us.

“When we got outside there were injured children with wounds in their legs on the ground, a guy who had lost a leg and a man holding a young child who was bleeding.”

The pair took the selfie at the concert at 10.30pm — just three minutes before the attack.

Miss Besbrode praised her former school, where she learned how to deal with suspected attacks.

She said: “They taught us not to panic and to get as far away from the incident as possible.

“I said aloud that if I started to panic I would be screwed so decided to remain calm.

“I also made the choice not to call my mum until I was as far away as possible and knew we were safe, so we ran to Piccadilly Gardens and got the Metrolink home.

“I’m feeling a bit mentally unstable about it now. It’s truly horrific.”

Mum Lara said: “It was horrendous, yet I am thankful to God that she got out uninjured.

“I’m devastated for all those who were injured and murdered. My daughter is blessed.”

Sharon Buchalter was waiting to pick up her children outside the Arena — 17-year-old Charlotte and Matthew, 15 — who were only given tickets to the show at 7pm that evening.

She said: “They were sitting at the front, in block 103. I was on the way to pick them up when Charlotte rang, but she was hysterical. She’s traumatised by it.

“They heard a bang, which my son thought was a speaker exploding, and started to run.

“Security told them to get on the floor — she thought she was going to die. Thankfully, they got to the exit and were one of the first ones out.

“Charlotte actually said to me that she couldn’t take a bottle of water in, but a terrorist got through.”

Fellow Mancunian Joel Lever was standing outside the arena waiting to collect his 14-year-old daughter, Marcie, who was at the concert with three friends.

He said: “I had messaged her to tell her to come out a bit earlier to avoid the crowds. The next thinG I know there was the biggest boom — so loud I felt it in my chest.

“Then, this sea of people just came running towards me, screaming and crying. I got pushed back into the road.”

Mr Lever told of the horror of being unable to contact his daughter or her friends. He said: “I didn’t know where they were.

“In a situation like that you become frightened but you also become brave. You just have to deal with it.

“Thankfully, Marcie called me and they had come out of a different exit.

“The girls were stunned by what was going on.

“Nobody knew what was happening and I just had to get them calmly back to the car where my wife Joanne was waiting for us.

“It was only when we got home and found out what it was that it hit us what happened — it is a truly horrific situation to think that someone had actively targeted children.”

Hale-based Dahlia Morris-Robinson’s daughter Lexi, 13, was at the concert with her friend Erin Barnes.

She said: “The girls were sitting on the Victoria Station side of the Arena with my mum Susan Hood.

“I got calls and texts asking if the girls were all right but didn’t know what was going on until I turned on the TV. I called my mum but she wasn’t answering and my brother was phoning Lexi but that went to voicemail.

“It must only have been a couple of minutes but I felt sick.” Mrs Morris-Robinson was able to contact her mum, who by now had found her way to the car.

She added: “It’s usually impossible to keep Lexi quiet but since Monday night she’s been very quiet. She told me that she saw blood on the floor when they were leaving the arena.

“My mum felt bad because there were all these people trying to get into the arena to find their children and she couldn’t help — she knew she had to get the girls to safety, and she did.”

Lexi didn’t go to King David High School the next day, and was unable to sleep that night. She continued: “She does understand what happened but is constantly asking questions about it.”

Several students from KD High were at the concert, many of whom were aged 14 and also stayed off school the following day.

A spokesman said: “They have access to a student welfare officer should they choose to come in.”

KD held special assemblies on Tuesday morning to demonstrate solidarity with prayers for the bereaved families and the injured.

The Community Security Trust urged the community to be calm and vigilant.

A spokesman said: “The attack follows many warnings from police and Government in recent months regarding the continuing high level of terrorist threat. This unfortunate reality demonstrates why CST works so closely with local Jewish communities, police and Government in order to secure our community.”

Chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, Simon Johnson, added: “As a proud Mancunian, I have watched in horror the news of the murderous attack at the Arena.

“Along with all our members, we are appalled by this dreadful criminal outrage.”

Businesses in the surrounding area were also affected as the city centre was locked down.

Geoffrey Filson, owner of LiteCraft, was unable to gain access to his premises, located opposite the Arena.

He said: “The police refused to let me get to the front door. I wasn’t told this until we got there.

“There were television crews all around us. It’s such a tragedy.”

Manchester has been praised for the way in which its residents have pulled together and supported each other.

One person went to the Kosher Centre at the Jewish Cultural Centre in Salford.

Shopworker Glenn Cohen said: “A customer came in and purchased some sandwiches, several multi-packs of crisps, 44 mini cup cakes, 24 mini Danish pastries and 30-odd individually wrapped cream filled biscuits.

“I asked her if she was having a party and she said it’s to take into town and give out. She spent £80. What a lovely gesture.”

And Chabad Manchester City Centre’s Rabbi Shneur Cohen was pictured handing out tea and coffee to police as well as international journalists covering the story.

He said: “We’re showing support for the police who are doing the marvellous work.

“We are Manchester; we will stand together strong, shoulder to shoulder, with positive acts of kindness.

“Everyone can do their bit, show a smiling face.”

Mancunian lawyer, Mark Lewis tweeted: “You can’t hurt us’ is not the story. ‘We will hurt you’ is what is important. Targeting is essential. Attack is the best form of defence.”

And Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “The slaughter of innocents must be unconditionally condemned and unflinchingly confronted no matter where it occurs — in Manchester, San Bernardino or Jerusalem.

“Terror is terror is terror. We must all unite to defeat it.”

Manchester Liberal Jewish Community’s minister Cantor Gershon Silins said: “It doesn’t make sense to many of us that such an atrocity could be carried out at a concert attended by children and young teenagers — a place usually filled with joy and excitement. The horror of the situation is incomprehensible.

“For so many families, this is just the beginning of mourning for lives lost, or a new reality of family members irrevocably damaged.”

A JustGiving fundraising page has been set up for those affected by the attack: tinyurl.com/Arenafundraising


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