Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hillsborough 20th anniversary: RIP our 96

20 years ago yesterday, 24,000 Liverpool fans set out to watch their team play vs Notts Forest in Hillsborough. 96 of them never came home, crushed to death in the stands. I've seen the TV broadcast of those moments when fans were screaming for help, climbing over fences to escape being crushed, being pulled up to the higher stands by other fans and the police formed a line across the halfway line of the pitch and stood there doing nothing. The official report later blamed the police for not controlling the situation properly.

Yet UK newspapers and the South Yorkshire police would report that it was the work of drunken fans which caused it. Some newspapers even reported that Liverpool fans stole from the dead and the dying lying on makeshift stretchers on the pitch.

I can only imagine the hurt the families of the 96 must have gone through. And on top of that, instead of hearing an apology and seeing those accountable for that disaster take responsibility and man up, they heard their lost ones being blamed instead for causing their own deaths. There is still no official apology 20 years on nor has any of those named as responsible in the govt report been prosecuted.

Some good has come out of it though. Because of the disaster, the design of stands in football stadiums across UK were reviewed and made safer. No more standing at matches. No more fences penning the fans in like a herd of sheep. All seaters now.

This is the site set up to campaign for justice for the 96: Hillsborough Justice Campaign Have a look if you'd like to read more about the campaign and the story behind the disaster.

The official Liverpool FC site put up a heart-breaking tribute to the 96. It featured letters written from the families to their lost ones, 20 years on. It's called Letters from the Heart and you can read Part I here.

Maybe one day, my little Connor's going to troop off to Anfield with his club jersey on and the club scarf round his neck, absolutely excited he's going to see his beloved team play (and win!) and think about how he's going to celebrate the win later in the pub with his mates. All of our 96 thought the same, I'm sure. Only they never got to the match. Or the pub. They all ended up as names on a memorial outside Anfield.

RIP 96... you'll never walk alone.

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