MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) - "Don't look back in anger".
The now poignant words of legendary Manchester Britpop band Oasis rang out in a flower-filled square on Thursday (May 25), as the grieving crowd broke out in song after a minute's silence to remember the 22 killed in Monday's suicide bombing.
In a city celebrated worldwide for its musical heritage, it was a spontaneous message of defiance as people come to terms with the heartbreaking massacre of innocent young victims who were themselves enjoying a pop concert.
A woman clutching a bouquet of flowers among the crowd of hundreds started the refrain as others urged people to "sing up" to send a loud message to the attackers.
Before, the bells of St Ann's Church rang out as silence fell over a square filled with hundreds of people, broken by applause which then melted into song.
One man's cry of "We love Manchester!" marked the end of the musical tribute, followed by further applause as emotions ran high in the square.
St Ann's has become the focal point for a city in mourning since Monday's attack at the nearby Manchester Arena, where 22 people including children were killed at a concert by US pop star Ariana Grande.
With so many children caught up in the attack, teddy bears, candles and heart-shaped balloons piled up in the square, along with notes of mourning and many messages stressing the need for unity within the city.
"MCR stronger than hate, unwilling to fear" read one, "The City of Manchester stands united" said another, in reference to the world-famous football club.
"It's a bereavement for all of us. It's like your own family just passed away, it's just so, so sad," said 69-year-old Carmel McLaughlan, standing next to a sea of thousands of flowers.
"There's just sadness hanging over Manchester at the moment. It's terrible, it's hard to believe it."
Thursday's event followed a vigil on Tuesday in the city's Albert Square, attended by thousands, where silence was broken by cheers and a chant of "Manchester! Manchester!"
Queen Elizabeth visited some of the children wounded in the attack, telling them it had been "very wicked".
Twenty-three people remain in critical care while scores more remain in hospital with injuries sustained when the 22-year-old bomber Salman Abedi detonated his explosives.