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Hillsborough: 28 Years, 96 Lives, One Horrible Day

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This is the day we come together in grief, in justice, and in fellowship

A Memorial Is Held For The 24th Anniversary Of The Hillsborough Tragedy Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

I feel like I need to apologize in advance for this post, because I never know what to say on April 15th.

How does anyone? How could anyone grapple with the enormity of grief and loss and injustice that happened that day and find words that are remotely appropriate? I do this thing for a living and I can’t even begin to comprehend the totality of Hillsborough. I can only imagine what it’s like for those who lost someone that day.

The Hillsborough Disaster isn’t just about the one day. There’s no doubt that, for far too many, 15 April 1989 is the worst day of their lives. But that pain was only compounded over the intervening years. Police, desperate to make people believe it wasn’t their fault, told the country that the victims were liable for their own deaths. A tabloid, for its own ghoulish reasons, were happy accomplices to the spread of this damnable lie. The Thatcher Government, a vast apparatus of practiced apathy and casual cruelty, stood by and watched. A city, pounded by a changing economy and an openly-hostile state, cried out for justice and were met with stony silence.

But through it all, the families of the victims— tempered by grief and with a resolve as strong as the foundations of the earth— refused to let the names of their loved ones be tarnished. Every day for three decades they fought bureaucracy and mendacious cops and a largely uncaring public, using every means at their disposal to uncover the truth. Finally, someone listened. A new inquest was convened and, after more than two years of deliberation (the longest jury case in British legal history) the victims of the disaster were formally cleared of any and all wrongdoing. The campaign turns now toward South Yorkshire police and making sure those responsible are held to account, and taking measures to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again.

Yet even now, so soon after their massive legal victory, vindication has been less than complete and all too short-lived. Families are being held liable for legal fees for police officers. Regressive trash sacks passing for politicians complain about the attention the disaster receives. That tabloid— who will not be named here— continues to employ and support columnists who make their nut from anti-Scouser rhetoric. Fans of rival clubs— there’s no point in naming names, too many do it for it to be a localized phenomenon— treat Hillsborough as a source of #banter and call Liverpool fans “murderers.”

In many ways, Hillsborough serves as a mirror and highlights some of the very worst of human nature. Yet, as a community and a club and a city knitted itself back together in the wake of incomprehensible tragedy, we also catch fleeting glimpses of the best of human nature.

I’m not a Christian, but I always thought it was appropriate that the Hillsborough anniversary happens on or around Easter. The day when millions celebrate the possibility of redemption, of hope, of renewed life. The day when, for many, the world came to a shattering end before starting the long process of rebuilding. The day when light triumphs over darkness, when life triumphs over death, when promises made long ago are fulfilled. What better day to honor the victims of a horrific tragedy and the families who’ve fought for so long to see justice done in their names.

One warm spring day in 1989, 96 Liverpool fans went to an FA Cup semifinal in Sheffield. They never came home. Today, 28 years later, we come together as a global community of Liverpool fans to find our way, slowly, out of the dark. For the victims, for the survivors, and for the families— we remember.

Justice for the 96.

1. John Alfred Anderson­ (62)

2. Colin­ Mark Ashcroft (19)

3. James­ Gary Aspinall (18)

4. Kester­ Roger Marcus Ball­ (16)

5. Gerard­ Bernard Patrick Baron­ (67)

6. Simon Bell (17)

7. Barry Sidney­ Bennett (26)

8. David John Benson (22)

9. David William Birtle (22)

10. Tony Bland (22)

11. Paul­ David Brady (21)

12. Andrew­ Mark­ Brookes (26)

13. Carl­ Brown­ (18)

14. David­­ Steven­ Brown (25)

15. Henry­­ Thomas Burke (47)

16. Peter­ Andrew­­ Burkett (24)

17. Paul­ William­­ Carlile (19)

18. Raymond­­ Thomas Chapman (50)

19. Gary­­ Christopher Church (19)

20. Joseph­ Clark­ (29)

21. Paul Clark­ (18)

22. Gary Collins (22)

23. Stephen­ Paul Copoc (20)

24. Tracey Elizabeth Cox (23)

25. James­ Philip Delaney (19)

26. Christopher Barry Devonside (18)

27. Christopher Edwards (29)

28. Vincent Michael Fitzsimmons (34)

29. Thomas Steven Fox (21)

30. Jon-Paul Gilhooley (10)

31. Barry Glover (27)

32. Ian Thomas Glover­ (20)

33. Derrick­ George Godwin (24)

34. Roy Harry­ Hamilton (34)

35. Philip­ Hammond (14)

36. Eric­ Hankin (33)

37. Gary Harrison­ (27)

38. Stephen Francis­ Harrison (31)

39. Peter Andrew Harrison (15)

40. David Hawley (39)

41. James Robert Hennesey (29)

42. Paul Anthony Hewitson (26)

43. Carl Darren Hewitt (17)

44. Nicholas Michael Hewitt (16)

45. Sarah Louise Hicks (19)

46. Victoria Jane Hicks (15)

47. Gordon Rodney Horn (20)

48. Arthur Horrocks (41)

49. Thomas­ Howard (39)

50. Thomas Anthony­ Howard (14)

51. Eric George­ Hughes (42)

52. Alan­ Johnston (29)

53. Christine Anne Jones (27)

54. Gary­ Philip­ Jones (18)

55. Richard­ Jones­ (25)

56. Nicholas Peter­ Joynes­ (27)

57. Anthony Peter­ Kelly­ (29)

58. Michael David­ Kelly (38)

59. Carl David Lewis (18)

60. David William Mather (19)

61. Brian Christopher Mathews (38)

62. Francis Joseph McAllister (27)

63. John McBrien (18)

64. Marion Hazel McCabe (21)

65. Joseph Daniel McCarthy (21)

66. Peter McDonnell (21)

67. Alan McGlone (28)

68. Keith McGrath (17)

69. Paul­ Brian­ Murray (14)

70. Lee­ Nicol (14)

71. Stephen Francis­ O'Neill­ (17)

72. Jonathon­ Owens (18)

73. William Roy­ Pemberton (23)

74. Carl­ William Rimmer­­ (21)

75. David­ George Rimmer­ (38)

76. Graham John­ Roberts­ (24)

77. Steven Joseph­ Robinson­ (17)

78. Henry Charles­ Rogers (17)

79. Colin­ Andrew Hugh­ William Sefton­ (23)

80. Inger Shah­ (38)

81. Paula Ann Smith (26)

82. Adam­ Edward Spearritt (14)

83. Philip­ John Steele (15)

84. David Leonard­ Thomas (23)

85. Patrik­ John Thompson­ (35)

86. Peter Reuben Thompson (30)

87. Stuart Paul William Thompson (17)

88. Peter Francis Tootle (21)

89. Christopher James Traynor (26)

90. Martin Kevin Traynor (16)

91. Kevin Tyrrell (15)

92. Colin Wafer (19)

93. Ian David Whelan (19)

94. Martin Kenneth Wild (29)

95. Kevin Daniel Williams (15)

96. Graham John Wright (17)