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LONDON — First came the red-orange flash, then the ear-splitting boom and the bodies falling to the ground.
Moments later, screaming and thick smoke clogged the air around Nicola Murray and a panicked mob threatened to sweep away her 12-year-old daughter, Olivia.
"[My daughter] at one point was getting dragged away from me," Murray told NBC News via Facebook Messenger as she recounted the chaos that erupted as a suicide bomber detonated a device after an Ariana Grande concert Monday night in Manchester, England.
Murray said they had decided to leave the pop star's performance a couple of minutes early. The pair were next to the food and drinks kiosks just outside the arena when the blast hit a few yards away, she said.
“It was chaos and people were panicking and running to try and get out the door," the mother-of-three said.
Murray described pulling her daughter close to her, shielding the child's delicate frame from the stampede with her own body.
“Everyone [was] on phones trying to call people they had lost"
Video shot inside the 21,000-capacity venue showed teenagers screaming as they made their way out amid a sea of pink balloons. Some fans were still wearing the former Nickelodeon TV actress and pop star's trademark kitten ears as they fled.
The mother and a daughter eventually escaped the Manchester Arena's foyer and arrived outside.
“It was full of people who were completely traumatized," the 33-year-old recalled. "Kids and adults alike all crying, screaming, some still running away from venue, adults in cars who were due to be picking up kids screaming trying to find them."
She added: “Everyone [was] on phones trying to call people they had lost."
Murray said she was initially pushed away from the direction of her hotel because of sheer size of the crowds outside.
The pair eventually found a taxi to take them back to their hotel, a Holiday Inn. A crowd of concertgoers met them in the lobby — many of them were weeping there, too.
It was only then Murray began to understand what had happened to her and Olivia.
“To be honest I felt numb rather than scared,” she said. "I [had] just focused on getting my daughter to safety. It's only now that the severity of the event has started to sink in.”