Last May, a bomber killed 22 people and injured more than 500 at the Manchester, England, stop of Ariana’s Dangerous Woman Tour.
“I was like a fish swimming in the wrong direction. Everyone was leaving, and I was going toward the stage. The bomb went off, and I’m looking at these young adults with fear in their eyes. People were jumping from the upper seats to get out. I just started grabbing people. I could have been steering them.…” Joan, 50, says of the terror attack in Elle‘s new cover story on Ariana.
Joan added: “I didn’t know where I was going. I just knew I was going to my daughter. Not to be overly dramatic — I struggle with this every day — but I didn’t know what I would find when I got to her. I sympathize with every parent who was waiting for a child. Those minutes when you don’t know what’s happening…there are no words.”
After the bombing, Ariana, 25, and her mom returned to their native Boca Raton, Florida, where the singer soon after started to plan the One Love Manchester benefit concert.
“It was two or three in the morning; she crawled into bed and said, ‘Mom, let’s be honest, I’m never not going to sing again. But I’m not going to sing again until I sing in Manchester first,'” Joan recalled.
Twelve days after the attack, Ariana returned to Manchester for the star-studded concert, which raised $23 million for charity.
Now, a year later, the bombing still affects the Grammy-nominated star.
“You see it on the news, you tweet the hashtag. It’s happened before, and it’ll happen again. It makes you sad, you think about it for a little, and then people move on. But experiencing something like that firsthand, you think of everything differently.…” Ariana said. “Everything is different.”
Ariana added: “When I got home from tour, I had really wild dizzy spells, this feeling like I couldn’t breathe. I would be in a good mood, fine and happy, and they would hit me out of nowhere. I’ve always had anxiety, but it had never been physical before. There were a couple of months straight where I felt so upside down.”
The singer has channeled her emotions into her next album, Sweetener, due Aug. 17. Lead single “No Tears Left to Cry” is subtly informed by the incident in Manchester, as is the album closer, “Get Well Soon.”
“It’s all the voices in my head talking to one another,” Ariana explained of the song “‘They say my system is overloaded,’ and then the background vocals say, ‘Girl, what’s wrong with you? Come back down.'”
The singer’s latest magazine cover comes one month after PEOPLE confirmed that she got engaged to Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson, 24, after just weeks of dating.
“I have everything I ever wanted,” Ariana wrote in a June Instagram story.