Watch: 'Goodness and vitality' of South Shields teenagers Chloe and Liam celebrated on fifth anniversary of Manchester Arena attack
South Shields’ own ‘Romeo and Juliet’ were remembered with an outpouring of love on the fifth anniversary of their lives being tragically cut short.
Numerous flowers and wreaths were laid at the couple’s memorial bench during the poignant ceremony.
Chloe, aged 17, a talented performer, and Liam, 19, a gifted cricketer, were among 22 lives lost and over 1,000 people injured in the attack on an Ariana Grande pop concert.
Chloe’s dad, Mark Rutherford, spoke about how much the community’s support has meant to the families over the years.
He said: “On behalf of both families I’d like to thank you all for your love and support over the past five years, to us personally and also to the Chloe and Liam Together Forever Trust.
“We would like to thank the whole community for the way you’ve all come together to show nothing but respect to Chloe and Liam for the memorial bench and how everyone has got behind Pink and Blue Day to help us create a lasting legacy for them both.”
Mark also read out the names of all 22 victims of the terrorist attack including his “beautiful daughter” and her “handsome prince”.
He added: “Today our thoughts are with everyone caught up in the atrocity on May 22, 2017, who have struggled both physically and mentally and to our fellow families who lost loved ones that night.”
A minute’s silence was observed at 10.30am – the time at night when the attack happened.
The day was also the trust’s annual Pink and Blue Day, when people are encouraged to wear pink and blue to help raise awareness and funds.
Those at the ceremony included beneficiaries of the charitable trust, which was launched in September 2017, and has given out over 250 grants to date to help aspiring sports people and performers like Chloe and Liam.
Chair of the trust, Ray Spencer MBE, said: “Chloe’s and Liam’s families, even in their deepest darkest hour knew that the goodness that was embodied in Chloe and Liam should never be lost.
"This goodness and vitality was the thing to be remembered, the thing to be celebrated. Not the evil that had taken away their dreams and aspirations.”
Ray added although they and the other victims were let down by some, the people of South Tyneside never had.
Over the years, the work of the trust has been supported by celebrities including musician Ed Sheeran, sports stars, and countless members of the community.
Ray said: “Already the trust we are seeing that young people are achieving great things with our help, across a whole host of sports and performing arts.”
Mayor of South Tyneside, councillor Pat Hay, who knew Chloe and laid the first wreath, said: “This day is a very sad day, but we will always remember Chloe and Liam.
"May we continue to support the trust and the families, and may they live in our memories forever.”