What Hillsborough means to me

By Joel Richards on Apr 14, 11 10:36 PM in Columnists

April 15th 1989. A date that will always bring Liverpool fans to a standstill.

From one generation to another, the Hillsborough disaster is a topic that every resident on Merseyside, and football fan across the country should be made fully aware of.

Although I am only 19, I have been brought up and fully educated on a subject that many understandably find difficult to talk about. After all I come from a family full of Liverpool fans, some of whom were in attendance on that fateful day.

While they were in the relative safety of one of the side stands, my Grandmother's cousin was one of the 96 who died on the Leppings Lane terrace. Every year she recalls her own experiences from that afternoon. It may be the same story but it is one I never tire of hearing as we make our way up to Anfield for the memorial service.

Normally a trip to Anfield brings excitement and anticipation ahead of a match I have been longing to attend all week long. But this trip is different.

As I take my place on the Kop I look around for a moment. I see the parents who still struggle to accept that they lost a child who they would never see grow up, the son who lost his father and match-going partner as well as the man who lost his friend despite promising to meet after the match by the coach they travelled on.

The common factor is all are united in grief. They all ask the same questions too. Why did it happen? Why did it happen to them and their loved ones? Will justice ever be done?

Not a moment goes by that I don't think of the 96 when I travel to and from a football game with my family or friends. I think what the conditions would be like if Hillsborough had never happened and if anything would have changed.

Would football fans still be caged behind fences so high you could barely see the other end of the pitch? Would we be punished with rough policing just because we had the audacity to like football? Would we have to stand on crumbling terraces built in the 19th century packed like sardines? Most of all would we even come home safe and sound?

Whatever the case, the feeling of injustice will never go away until those who had a part to play in the disaster and its coverage admit they were wrong and offer an apology, something the families and fans still wait for.

I can only admire and respect those affected by the events that unfolded on that tragic afternoon. They should be regarded as heroes who did their best while South Yorkshire Police just stood back and watched with folded arms.

As for a certain paper and its editor who printed lies in the days that followed, I feel nothing but hate for them and the allegations they aimed at any Liverpool fan that was there. How does Kelvin MacKenzie sleep at night? Why can't he accept that he was wrong? Why can't that paper apologise for that story and print 'WE LIED' instead of 'THE TRUTH'?

The feeling towards The Sun hasn't changed 22 years on and the successful boycott on Merseyside still remains. Stickers bearing the message 'Don't buy The Sun' are a prominent fixture on any supporter travelling to and from a game and are seen around Liverpool and beyond.

No matter where you are this Friday and whatever you are doing, just stop and pause for a moment. Think of those fans that went to watch a football game and never returned, think of their loved ones and think of those fans that survived and still suffer to this very day.

After the service, I'll walk round to the Anfield Road end of the ground and I'll stand and stare at the memorial. I'll look at all the flowers, every name and age, and then gaze at the eternal flame that resides as a permanent reminder that their lights will never go out. No matter what, it will always bring a great lump to my throat and a silent tear to my eye.

You'll Never Walk Alone. Justice For The 96.

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