"We Just Kept Running and Running"

In a sea of fans and their families at the Manchester Ariana Grande concert, 17-year-old Olivia Duffy felt safe—until, suddenly, she didn't.

I 've never been afraid to go places. My mum gets bad anxiety about all the terrorist attacks—I had a school trip to the West End right around the time of that stabbing on the bridge, and she really didn't want me to go. But I told her, "You can't let this stuff stop you. You can't, because then they win!" I never feared it, but I'd never been through it. Last night changed that.

I'd been to Manchester Arena a couple of times—I saw Justin Bieber there once—but this was my first Ariana Grande concert. My dad took me, along with our family friend's two little kids.

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We were sitting in a VIP box so we could see everything. I noticed this one girl below us—she looked so excited and was dancing the entire concert. I've been checking Twitter nonstop all night and day and my stomach dropped when I saw a picture of her. I think she's one of the missing girls.

Grande performing at the opening night of her tour in Arizona in February

It had been such a great concert. Ariana walked on stage at 9 p.m. and sang until 10:29 p.m.—I know the exact time because my dad wanted us to leave early, since it was a school night.

Her last song was a surprise encore of "Dangerous Woman." It was so great. Hundreds of these pink balloons fell from the ceiling. We actually thought all the banging noise we heard later was just the balloons popping.

My dad kept pushing us to leave because he wanted to beat the traffic. We started to walk out right after "Dangerous Woman," at 10:33. The crowd was packed really tightly, forming all of these queues, but I figured that was normal.

The first strange thing I saw was a group of girls hysterically crying. I saw one girl with blood on her cheek. I thought maybe they'd had a fight, or maybe someone pushed them in the crowd. Once we were outside, my dad bought me a T-shirt from one of the vendors. Suddenly everyone around us started to run.

A family embracing after leaving Manchester Arena

At first we thought everyone was just trying to to beat the traffic like we were. So I grabbed my dad's hand, and then the hands of the little kids with us, and we ran into the car park toward our van. That's when we saw the fire brigade arriving, and the rapid-response police cars. There was so much noise—sirens, people screaming, honking horns, and so many phones ringing. All these teenagers, even 12- and 13-year-olds, were screaming into their phones, trying to get their parents to hear them.

Maybe I was oblivious, but I wasn't scared yet. We just kept running and running. My dad started saying, "Something serious is going on. Something must have happened." He is still taking it the hardest. He's been crying today, wondering what would have happened if we'd stayed one minute longer.

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We just focused on getting to the van and getting out of there. We saw two girls standing on an island in the road as we passed, blood on their heads. Could it have been a riot? A knife attack? We still didn't know. I checked Twitter and saw that some people said it was a suicide bombing, but I thought that couldn't be right. It was a children's concert. Who would do that?

Staff and customers were evacuated from the Arndale Centre shopping mall in Manchester today after a security alert.

Then I realized that they hadn't checked our bags at the concert. Security didn't look—one of my friends who was there even snuck alcohol in through her purse. They didn't check my bag once. I could have brought in whatever the hell I wanted.

My dad dropped me off at my mum's house around midnight. I couldn't go to sleep. I had like a hundred messages and missed calls from my friends, and I was trying to reply to everyone so they knew I was alive. I stayed up until 3 a.m., just thinking and reading Twitter, looking for more updates.

It was so strange. You always see celebrities tweeting after disasters, sending their love or whatever. Now they were sending love to Manchester, to me.

Flowers left in mourning of the tragedy at Manchester Arena last night.

I do feel like I don't trust things anymore. I'm supposed to go to the shopping center next week to get some new makeup and shoes for a big music festival in Manchester next month, but my mum doesn't want me going into the city again, let alone to the festival. There was another terrorist threat here already today.

I hope Ariana is okay. Her statement last night about being "broken" made me feel horrible. If I could talk to her, I would say, "Don't worry. It could have been anyone's concert. It could have been anything. You don't know what's around the corner."

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