I want to write about Hillsborough, something that is everywhere today. But I wasn’t sure where, or how, to start.
In April 1989 (on my brother’s birthday, in fact) 95 people were crushed to death at a football match after a truly astonishing catalogue of errors. The 96th died some years later, having gone to the game in high spirits, and left in a coma. Today, an enquiry has revealed the extent of some of these “errors” – less accidental oversights, more conscious, and frankly disgusting, manipulation of the truth.
Hillsborough is part of our nation’s collective memory now. Everyone knows about it. I knew about it – I knew people had died, I remember seeing pictures of people hanging down from the terrace above, I remember it having some link to my dad telling me why people don’t stand in terraces at football games any more. But today has shown me the incredible amount I didn’t know. And the things that nobody knew, the truth that nobody admitted to, until today.
Like I said, I don’t know everything, and with that in mind I’m scared to go too much into the ins and outs. But reading this post from Fleet Street Fox this afternoon was… painful. I sat with my hand over my mouth, thinking, ‘This actually happened?… This actually happened.’ So many voices have added to the argument around what should and should not have been done. But it isn’t the rights and wrongs I want to talk about.
My boyfriend goes to football matches. He’s been going since he was a boy, going with his dad. So many dads, so many sons, were off to the game that afternoon. I know that excitement that they must have felt, that anticipation. And yes I know things were different then, football was a different game, hooliganism was a different beast. But I know that feeling – getting off the train, shirts on, chattering. When my young, happy, clever boyfriend goes with his dad, it’s a real occasion for them. It’s what they do together. They have a routine, they look forward to it.
And I know what it’s like to wave him off, knowing what it means to him to Be There, watching, singing, cheering. Queueing for a pie at half time. It makes me happy to see him excited for it. I shut the door, smiling at him in his stripes, shaking my head at how silly boys are. And then I get on with my day, looking forward to when he comes in that evening, (hopefully) on a high, and asking him how the match went to tentatively test what I think I know about football.
So many mums, wives, girlfriends, daughters, sisters went through that familiar “Oh, our boys and their football…” routine that day. So many. And then got on with their days. And looked forward to them coming in that night.
And then they didn’t.
And today, years and years later, far too many years later, they discover why.
My thoughts are with all the families who lived that nightmare 23 years ago, and every day since. I cannot believe I knew so little about everything you went through.
Today was a historic moment in your story and hopefully a catalyst too. But facts and blame and the further revelations that I’m sure are to come aside… I hope that you find the peace you all so very much deserve.