What perhaps some are not aware of is that there had been an incident back in 1981 at the very same ground, under similar circumstances which had resulted in 38 injuries including broken limbs. Any lessons learned that day were quickly forgotten and fast forward 8 years and we have one of the worst footballing disasters in the history of the sport. From the evidence and the recent findings, it appears this could have been avoided. That in itself is difficult to take, but when we look at how certain accounts of the event have been fabricated, evidence has ostensibly been suppressed and victims have been almost treated as perpetrators it is easy to see why 27 years on emotions are still running high. Only 14 of the 96 fatally injured actually arrived at hospital. It is understandable why there were so many questions from the grieving families and why they never gave up the fight for justice; their tenacity an inspiration to us all.
You don't have to be a football fan to possess heartfelt sorrow for the victims and nothing but respect for the grace and humility the families have displayed throughout a 27 year campaign for justice. I remember as a young boy queuing up for several miles to pay my respects to the victims. None of my family were Liverpool fans, but that day was about more than football and a country united, rendering colours and allegiances irrelevant. I will never forget the site of the Anfield stadium as I walked into the ground, with the pitch and goalposts covered with scarves, flags and flowers. The emotion that day in and around the ground was like nothing I had ever seen before and nothing I have experienced afterwards either. Through tears and despair I saw people embracing each other who had never met before, and probably would never meet again. I saw a disbelief at what had happened, and a sight I never felt I would see and will ever likely see again, I saw fans from many different clubs united.
Sadly, not everybody was able to see the verdict which many had been waiting for, fighting for nearly 3 decades. Anne Williams had fought tirelessly for a new enquiry (her son had been killed in the disaster) and whilst she wasn't able to see the verdict due to sadly passing in 2013, the work she did played an integral role in opening up a new enquiry, which ultimately led to the recent verdict that the victims were unlawfully killed.
Whilst the recent verdict is welcomed by all, those affected, particularly the families will continue to be affected for the rest of their lives. Husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, daughter, sons, brother and sisters were all lost that day and we should never forget that. Trevor Hicks lost two daughters that day and the question will always remain of whether had the situation been handled differently could they, among others, have been saved? As I am writing this, I am feeling emotional and taken right back to the day. For me, though at some point I will be able to switch off and occupy my mind with other things, a luxury many others who had their lives changed forever on that fateful day are not afforded. Whilst there is a sense of justice and the verdict of the enquiry welcomed by millions, I can’t help but still feel an enormous sadness at not only what those affected have had to go through with losing their loved ones, but also that it took us 27 years to gain any clarity over what really happened. The fact enquiries and statements subsequent to the disaster have prevented closure for the victims’ families almost feels like another tragedy in itself.
My heart and utmost respect and admiration goes out to all those affected.
‘You’ll never walk alone’