Romance blossoms for Arena couple united by love not tragedy
"It's why we've met but not why we're together". Caitlin and Millie tell Fiona Finch that they met because of the Manchester Arena bombing but they will never be defined by it.
Love has grown from grief for a young north west couple whose lives were changed forever by the Manchester Arena bombing.
It is now four years since the bombing which killed 22 people and injured hundreds of concert goers on May 22, 2017.
In the audience that night were Caitlin McNeil and Millie Tomlinson. Caitlin from Catterall, near Garstang, escaped physical injury, but Millie from Wigan suffered leg and hand injuries.
They have both had to learn how to live with the memories of that terrible night.
But today they are united by happiness, not tragedy. They have become partners after first meeting in the aftermath of the bombing when a TV documentary was being filmed.
Caitlin, 18, who has just completed her A'levels, said: "Millie was in the documentary as well. We started off being friends. I met her in 2018, we got on straight away being friends. It was two and half years of solid friendship. I would literally class her as my best mate. At the start of this year we started Facetiming and chatting more. We just get on so well. We haven't really lost that friendship now even though we're together...I think we're really, really good together."
On Valentine's Day this year Caitlin, who hopes to study for a degree in fashion photography in the autumn, asked Millie if she would like to be her girlfriend. It was, said Caitlin, "a massive deal" for the couple when they got together, but no surprise to those who knew them.
She added: "When we first got together everyone said 'oh well, we all saw that coming'. My mum was like 'it's about time' "
Of the bombing she said: "It doesn't define our relationship but if we want to talk about it we could....it's something that happened to both of us but it is not defining our relationship. It's why we've met but not why we're together. We have so much in common. "
She continued: "Obviously we're there for each other. She (Millie) had to give evidence in court. I went with her to make sure she was OK."
Millie has just completed her first year studying TV and radio journalism at Salford University. She said of their relationship: "I think it's been very good. I was worried if we got together maybe we would lose our friendship. But I'm really glad we did it ...I think we got together because we just got on - we already clicked. It's just added a lot of happiness."
Caitlin's mum Annette said: "It's just such a lovely relationship because they are are so close, because they share a common experience and they both understand each other. They are amazing together. It's really special something so wonderful has come out of this."