Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Rest in Peace

April 15, 1989 is a date I will never forget. I want to forget ....but I can’t.
It is hard to believe that 19 years have elapsed since the Hillsborough disaster which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans, many of them youngsters.
Because the memories of that day, and the images, are as fresh in my mind as if it were yesterday.
I’d taken a day off to go to the ill-fated FA Cup semi-final against Forest with three neighbours, Martin, Jim and Chris. We’d manage to get tickets for the must-see game via a contact at the City Ground.
We were all in high spirits - after a few pints in a nearby pub - as we strolled along in the sun. We laughed and joked and soaked up the atmosphere as we took our places on the terraces. Chants of You’ll Never Walk Alone echoed around the ground as we laughed at the Liverpool fans trying to climb out of the Leppings Lane end opposite us.
We thought they were trying to get into the seats for free. Little did we know they were desperately fighting for their lives.
Six minutes later the bodies of fans, blue in the face, were being laid out on the pitch just yards from us as the fans sang on.
The body of a small boy lay under a blanket.
Life ebbed away from a middle-aged fan as a paramedic thumped his chest in an effort to keep his heart pumping.
A few feet away two fans were fighting on the terraces. Didn’t they know people were dying out there?
We left. We phoned our wives to tell them we were safe. But they were the only words spoken on the way home.
We were all numb; in a state of shock, I suppose.
We never spoke of Hillsborough again.
No-one has even been held accountable for the tragedy, which is a tragedy in itself.
Lord Justice Taylor, in his report on the disaster, ruled that the ground was unsafe and criticised the way the police handled things.
Even today, 19 years on, parents who lost children and still light candles for them, feel a massive sense of injustice. And I, for one, don’t blame them.
There are plans to mark the 20th anniversary of the tragedy with a charity match between Celtic and Liverpool. Why?
RIP.

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