Wednesday, 12 September 2012

There is a Light That Never Goes Out

The light is the eternal flame of the Hillsborough Memorial at Anfield stadium, Liverpool.    It commemorates the loss of 96 lives in the worst peace-time disaster ever to affect this country.

Today has been a momentous day and I couldn’t let it pass without writing something about it

I cannot claim any great interest in football.  In fact I have spent my entire life trying to avoid it.  I can’t name any players, I don’t know the rules, I find it ultimately boring.  But I have grown up in a city that eats, sleeps and breathes it.   I was 8 years old when the Hillsborough disaster occurred.  I can remember the endless news reports and the front pages of the newspapers showing the anguished crowds crushed up against the bars gasping for breath.  I can remember my mum always trying to shield me from the horror of it and complaining that the images were far too graphic and gruesome for children’s eyes.  I can remember counsellors coming in to my school to talk to relatives of the victims.

Justice for the 96 has been emblazoned onto the city’s consciousness for the past 23 years.  You couldn’t go very long without hearing further theories emerge, new reports come to light or seeing TV dramatisations and documentaries.   Even my 5 year old daughter, who has become interested in the sport due to the intervention of ardent LFC supporting family members, often asks about “the 96 people who lost their lives”.

Many people over the years have suggested that perhaps the victim’s families should move on.  Accusations of “professional mourning” and group sentimentality have been glibly made to diminish the credibility of the grieving Liverpool fans.  Did I ever subscribe to this?  Perhaps.  It's been hard for many observers to not be affected by the narrative that so many elements of the media have spun out regarding the city.

Today, the devastation, loss, and perpetually unfulfilled yearning of the bereaved family members has been validated.  Today, for the first time, I have seen why these people have never given up their fight for justice.  Today, for the first time I cried my eyes out over the scale of this unspeakable tragedy.  An injustice which carries the rare ability to shock in a time when we’re all virtually unshockable. 

I am not a statistics person.  I tend to glaze over facts and figures. But, the statistics revealed in today’s report are impossible to ignore:-

Of 164 police statements altered, 116 were significantly altered to explicitly remove references to blame on the part of the South Yorkshire Police.

Senior police officers, with the knowledge and approval of the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, immediately began a concerted cover-up by briefing the media that the whole thing was the responsibility of drunken, ticketless fans that were violently rampaging through the streets. 

In the days following the tragedy Police Officers illegitimately ran criminal records checks on the victims in order to find further information to leak to the press to turn public opinion further against the fans

Blood alcohol tests were ordered to be carried out on all of the dead, including children, to further build the web of lies.

Most damningly of all, 41 people could now be alive if the South Yorkshire emergency services hadn’t decided that football fans were not worth their best efforts.  

Nothing I or anyone could ever say could begin to carry sufficient meaning or poignancy to begin to ease the pain of the relatives of the 96. I can only hope that peaceful rest and diminishing of pain and grief can start for the victims and their families.  The light that never goes out should ever serve as a reminder of the courage and bravery of those who keep fighting when the fight is all but lost,  and the need for openness and transparency from those who are appointed to protect and to serve us, any of us, who might just find ourselves fatefully in the wrong place at the wrong time.   
  
Lucy x

10 comments:

  1. Wow! I never think anyone should be told to stop grieving- how can we possibly know the situation for that individual person who is grieving even though you might think it was for the best.x

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  2. Amazing post. I wasn't even 1 when it happened but it is something that is ingrained in me growing up around Merseyside, just like 9/11 will be to Americans. It has been so sad to read the truth finally. Although we all knew it, it hurts even more to have confirmation I think. The behaviour of the police and the press around it has been abhorrent. I felt sick when I heard about the blood tests on the dead. I hope that the families of the victims can get some slight closure after today.

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  3. What a powerful piece of writing, Lucy. I remember the terrible disaster very well. My boyfriend at the time lived the other side of Hillsborough and was trying to get across the city to my house, but couldn't. He rang to tell me something had happened at the match and to put the news on, where the story, as it was told at the time, unfolded. I remember those awful images too. The despicable actions of South Yorkshire police and the inadequate response of the emergency services are shameful. I can completely understand why the families pursued their case for a full enquiry. If you have lost loved ones, and on top of that endured a smear campaign and a cover-up, you wouldn't be prepared to let it go until some sort of justice was served. I admire the families' perseverance and courage. xxx

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  4. OMG,that episode is like a stain.How dreadful.I remember this,not well,but we got the coverage,and it was/is just shockingly bad.XXXXXX

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  5. Have just come back from the wiki entry on The Hillsborough Disaster and I'm appalled - I do have a vague memory of soccer stadium disaster/s (was there more than one around that time?) but I had no idea the scale of the tragedy or the cover up. I'm glad there's a light that never goes out. And I wish for peace for everybody impacted - this is not something people should ever 'get over' - it's something you have to learn to live with forever. Grief never stops. Sarah xxx

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  6. Coming from the other side of the Mersey, I remember this day very well Lucy. I remember the local pub putting its speakers out in the street and playing "You'll Never Walk Alone" all day and the disbelief at the news coming out. It's good to hear there's some justice for the families at last though they'll never get over what happened. xx

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  7. Wow, you're such a good writer, this is really powerful. I can't believe all the incompetance and lies surrounding it. The whole thing is my worst nightmare.

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  8. Such an eloquent and moving post. It's so hard to believe how it was handled - pretty maliciously really. Whole thing is utterly disgraceful.

    Nikki x

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  9. Great post about such a grim topic. It really is was an unbelieveable tragedy. I remember imagining what a dreadful way to die that would be - it kind of haunted me for a while. The poor families. All this stuff that's come from the enquiry = utterly appalling..

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  10. I remember a programme that said a lot of the people that died could have been helped more too. It is frightening that people 'in charge' can be so utterly wicked. I think we are a bit of a 'move on' culture these days. People can grieve for as long as they like or need to and these people really needed justice too.
    This was a really thoughtful post. xxx

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Ah, thank you for commenting. You've made my day :)

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