Fireman tackles 22 10km challenges in memory of Arena bomb victims

AN OLDHAM fireman has done his bit to remember two Royton victims of the Manchester Arena attack.

And Aaron Lee has revealed the amazing story behind his change of career after being on duty when terror struck.

The 32-year-old was a serving policeman when suicide bomber Salman Abedi struck at an Ariana Grande concert on May 22 last year, killing 22 people.

Among them were Lisa Lees and Alison Howe, who came from Royton, and Aaron has marked their memory by completing two 10km runs as he embarks on ‘22 for the 22’.

Wilmslow and Oulton Park race track were the scenes of his efforts to pay tribute to the local victims.

And he has been told his will be the last event to give money to the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund, which is winding down after handing over millions of pounds to support people affected by the atrocity.

Now he has told how he went from being a policeman to a fireman on the word of one of the victim’s families.

“They asked me if I was truly happy in my job,” said Aaron, who is based at Oldham Community fire station.

“I had to say I wasn’t and they followed it up by asking what I wanted to do when I was a kid.

“So I told them I wanted to be a fireman and they replied, ‘Well, why don’t you go for it?’ Life’s too short for anything like that.

“I was a police officer for nine years and on the night of the attack I was called to help assist the victims and people caught up in it.

“Being around them and supporting them was a tough time. I was just watching them go through the worst thing they could ever go through and I didn’t really have an answer for them.

“We were there in an official role, as police officers, but we’re all still humans, we all felt it.”

Aaron, born and bred in Chadderton but now living in Milnrow, did numbers seven and eight of his 22 in memory of Lisa and Alison.

He has already lined up number 22 – the Great Manchester 10km on May 19 next year in memory of eight-year-old victim Saffie Roussos – and will hand over all the medals for completing the run to the family of whoever’s memory he did it in.

Yet despite his feat – all in a Salford Red Devils rugby league shirt that was designed to raise money for the Emergency Fund – he insists running is alien to him.

That has not stopped Great Britain athlete Eilish McColgan and her boyfriend, middle distance runner Michael Rimmer, becoming good friends with him and eager to know his progress.

“I’m not a runner,” Aaron added. “At first I wanted to run a marathon but I just don’t think my knees would hold up to it.

“I thought, ‘I know, I could do a 10km,’ as I did one four years ago, which was the first one I ever did!

“I decided to make sure all 22 were official events and races, just so I can get a medal from every one of them.

“But I’ll admit, my knees are feeling it a bit now!”

Aaron’s efforts are raising money for the fund and his original target has already been smashed – as has his second.

“At the moment, I’ve raised more than £3,500,” he said.

“It’s unbelievable. I never would’ve dreamed it would have been as well received as it has – my original target was £500.

“When I set it up, I didn’t think for one second that it would be this popular. I thought it would be just friends and family that would donate.

“The £500 target was broken in just two weeks, then I set another one – £2,222. That went and I just thought I’d carry on going to get as much as I can.

“Now I’ve been told it will be the last event to add to the fund. £21 million in all has been given back out to families of the victims but also people with physical injuries, about 800 people were injured in the attack.

“Many also had traumatic and emotional injuries and a lot of support has been given to people who still struggle with it all.

“The support has been amazing and I will keep on going until I’ve done all 22 for the 22.”

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