It’s time we were told: Why?

My youngest daughter looked at me on Thursday lunchtime and said: “I’ve never seen you cry before Dad.”

I was reading one of the papers at the time, one of the many pages about the day before’s service. I was surprised at what she said. “Are you sure?” I asked. She insisted she was right.

I’ve cried time and time again over Hillsborough, something I’m not ashamed to admit. But most of the time there’s an instinctive feeling that the tears have to be hidden. Dig your fingernails into the palms of your hand, bite your bottom lip, try to turn your thoughts to something else – anything but let the tears roll down.

That instinct seems stronger in front of your own children. You’re there to protect them from the monsters under the bed and the bullies at school, to tell them everything’s okay even if it isn’t; you can’t really cry in front of them. So you wait until they aren’t there, until you’re on your own.

But this time, sitting at the table with her, the tears had rolled down my face and my voice was breaking up as I was speaking to her.

“It’s okay dad! I don’t mind you crying. I know why you’re crying.”

And she did know.

Young as she is, she’s been taught all her life about what happened in 1989. She’s always had the “PG” version, never the version the adults hear. She’s too young yet for that, for the version that consists of horrors so bad that no film censor would ever pass them. But she knows the basic premise of why we are so sad, and so angry, about what they did to our people in Sheffield.

For as long as I can remember my keys have been held on a “Justice for the 96” keyring. She often sees it and asks about it. She’ll often ask a question, before asking similar questions time and time again over a period of time, and every time she asks, she’ll understand a little more.

My generation asked our elders about the great days of Bill Shankly, and we got told about his witty and inspirational comments and the way he changed the club so fundamentally.

Now my generation are the elders, we get to tell them not only about Shanks but about Bob Paisley and his league and European successes. We get to tell them about Joe Fagan and Kenny Dalglish.

With Fagan we talk about his years of service to the club and his treble success in 1984. But at the same time we have to mention what happened in Brussels in 1985.

With Kenny we can talk for hours; he was our Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard rolled into one as a player, and he took that even further as our manager. But then we have to talk about how his reign at Anfield ended. What he’d done, without once complaining, in the aftermath of Hillsborough, and how it left him so broken-hearted.

And of course that means we have to talk about what this big word “Hillsborough” means.

When she was younger, I just told her that some naughty men hadn’t done their jobs properly, and that meant 96 people died.

I had to try and put that number into context. More than all the children in Reception, Year One and Year Two. More than all the children in the infants in other words. That’s how many died.

As the years went on she’d ask if these naughty men had got into any trouble: “Did they go to jail?” she’d ask.

“No,” I told her.

“Why not, did they not catch them?”

“Well,” I said…

Some questions just can’t be answered. And “Why?” is the main one.

So, she still doesn’t know “Why” because I still can’t tell her “Why”. Because, with children, there’s always another “Why” to follow the last one until you can finally answer one of those questions with an answer that makes sense to them.

There is no answer that makes ultimate sense when it comes to Hillsborough. And that’s what makes it so hard to take.

But this past couple of weeks I’ve seen more coverage of the disaster, the cover-ups, the injustice, the lies, the suffering and the horrors than I’ve seen since 1989.

And it’s actually started to have an effect on people who up until this year didn’t know much at all about the Hiilsborough truth. Some hadn’t heard enough about it to be too bothered about it – until this year. Others have found themselves ashamed after believing the lies all this time. Lies that stuck like mud 20 years ago when a conservative MP threw them on behalf of South Yorkshire Police, aided and abetted by Kelvin McKenzie of The Sun.

Fans of clubs like Celtic and Everton, to name just two, have always known and understood the truth about Hillsborough. The scarves that stretched from Goodison to Anfield in 1989 and Celtic’s never-to-be-forgotten gesture that got us back playing again in 1989 told us they understood. The vast majority of Everton fans put hostilities aside when it comes to Hillsborough, they join us in our boycott of The Sun. It was no surprise to see Celtic fans were at the service in force, accompanied by the banner that they made to show their support for us, a banner that makes regular appearances at their own games.

Individual fans of other clubs have always shown their support. Decent people who’ve had the chance to read up on what happened have sent their own messages of sympathy every year. Visit the Hillsborough memorial at any time of the year and you’re guaranteed to see a tribute left there by someone who supports another club somewhere in the world.

Whether it’s the majority of a club’s fans or just a few individuals, their kind and generous thoughts and deeds are appreciated more than we can really say.

But this year has seen new people join the calls for justice. People have been literally shocked at what they’ve read.

I’ve not read, watched or listened to all of the coverage yet. I can’t. But I will. One bit at a time.

The tears my daughter saw came after I’d been reading the words of Liverpool’s mayor. Reading the words again in the paper the following day was the point where I could no longer hold the tears back.

I’d held the tears back as he said them at the service. I’d seen a photo on the official site that morning, a photo of one of the victims, a victim I knew, a victim who’d been the same age as me, worked where I worked and who never got to get married and have kids, like I did. I’d not seen his face for a long time, not since the papers of the time.

And then the mayor spoke at Anfield about his own life, how lucky he was to have had his three children, to have a life that was so good to him, when certainly the younger of those victims never got that chance.

My daughter was with me at the service as he said it. But she was standing on her seat, facing the other way; she couldn’t see my eyes welling up. She probably didn’t realise why I held her so tightly, probably thought I was just making sure she didn’t fall.

By the time we got home from the service my emotions were everywhere. I was angry about some of the aspects of the service, moved by many more aspects of it. We saw a bit of the news coverage of the service. Then we put the Jimmy McGovern docu-drama “Hillsborough” on. She saw a bit of it, sat upright transfixed watching it, well past her bedtime. She fell asleep watching it, worn out, but she’d seen the part that deals with the disaster itself.

She learned more about Hillsborough in 24 hours than she’d learned all her life until that day.

And she’s not the only one.

People have opened their eyes.

One way or another we’ll get those answers.

We’ll get those victims and those survivors their justice.

13 thoughts on “It’s time we were told: Why?”

  1. I wasn’t at hillsborough and I don’t personally know anyone who was, but i still feel the sense of loss and injustice of that day.. I watched it all on TV with millions of others and couldnt believe what my eyes telling me..
    The lies that followed from the Police and politicians, and The SCUM newspaper…

    I was working with a lad from work on the day of the 20th anniversary, and found out that he wasn’ t even born when the disaster happened.
    I couldnt believe it , he was 20yrs old and a football fan – and he DIDN’T know anything about of what happened that day in 1989 .
    I was amazed ! – Why doesnt he know ? Why didnt anyone tell him ? – It feels like yesterday to me ..and i wasnt directly affected. God only knows what it must be like for the families and friends of the 96 .. and those who witnessed it all that day…

    Well he certainly knows about the disaster now .. and is amazed that something like that could happen. He cant believe that no-one has been made accountable. “Someone MUST be responsible . They cant just sweep it under the carpet and forget about it..” he said..

  2. Ref the Fergusson V Rafa squabble.
    Now we are to believe Fergusson is the defender of the one HE DECREES, have been defamed.
    What a laugh, Fergusson only speaks of himself, for himself, about himself.
    Please Rafa do not rise to his fishing, the only thing he wants is to goad you into saying the wrong thing, and you have already given him all the amunition he needs.
    Emulate Paisley and speak only about about your players and the history of the club.
    Fergusson is a dangerous and vindictive person who only wants to hurt LFC and will use anybody and anything to do just that.

  3. Just a quick reminder that we’re not here as an outlet for children to make offensive comments before mummy and daddy get back from the supermarket, especially if the comments are offensive towards the victims of Hillsborough.

    One user chose an offensive username – and used a fake email address – to say this: “fat rafa is a waster and just as he shows no respect how can he expect his players to show respect it highlights why your own reserve keeper has no idea of how to behave, it comes straight down from the manager. rafa cracked once this season, you got mauled by chelski. I would be embarassed for rafa if i was stupid enough to be a lowly dipper”

    I’m sure it must be wonderful to possess the levels of intelligence this person has, even if he finds himself unable to work out how that ‘shift’ button works for capital letters.

    His IP address is but we’ll not report him to his ISP (BT) at this stage – on condition that’s his last attempt at causing offence on here. And there’s little point responding to what he’s actually said, he’s clearly already frightened enough by the threat of Liverpool FC, without us giving him another sleepless night.

    One user who will be reported to his ISP has been unable to access the site for the past few days after making more than one attempt to cause hurt. He’s kept trying, but without success.

    His false email addresses and user names have included “Bob Martin” and “Davyork”, and he’s been desperate to tell the world “liverpool 96 are dead good i wish it was 20.000”, “why was it 20.000 just 96” and “who cares about the 96 i wish it was 20.000”.

    The only full stop he’s used has been where the comma would go in a number like 20,000, but schools go back next week – maybe he’ll turn up for some lessons and learn something. I wonder if he can only count to 20,000?

    His parents will learn something soon too.

    His IP address is and he’s using a Sky Broadband account. Under their acceptable use policy his parents might just find their service has been cut off when Sky receive the full logs of his recent attempts at abuse.

    I bet they can’t wait to tell their mates how brave they were.

  4. Jim,
    it’s probably SAF & Big Sam. Listening to their latest diatribes, clearly they are two very disturbed old men.

  5. For the idiot that wished it were 20 000 Reds that died at Hillsborough: that wouldn’t have made the slightest dent in the GLOBAL family of LFC supporters. I was a 13-year old South African Indian supporter. I am as passionate about LFC as any Scouser!

    This is a team that is loved by millions – not just because of their titles and success on the field. We are a family – through thick and thin. This explains why LFC is so well-supported throughout the world even though we have not won the Premiership title in 19 years.

    For the families of the 96: Your pain is felt by millions of Reds throughout the world. We may not live in Liverpool, we are not British but we are RED! We also demand the justice that you so rightly deserve.

    Walk on! Walk on! YNWA

  6. Now I am no fan of the police just look at the coverage that they have had this week but I am astounded that all the critisism they have had over Hillsborough. I must ask, how many of the Liverpool “fans” without tickets and those who climbed the walls to gain access that day thus contributing to the crush have been found out and dealt with or have come forward and accepted any blame ? I would hazzard a guess at not very many. People of Liverpool I say to you look to your OWN before pointing fingers at others. Condolences to those who lost loved ones.

  7. Can you tell me the exact number of Italians that Liverpool Fans killed at the Hysel Stadium ?

  8. Your first comment sounded almost reasonable, and would have got a response from me.

    Then we got your second one, showing how much you care about Heysel. You can’t even spell it!

    To answer that question, it was 32 Italians who died at Heysel. In all 39 people died at that game, including 4 Belgians, 2 who were French and also an Irishman.

    Who do you support Andy?

    And another question for you: You mention ticketless fans climbing the walls to gain access. Can you tell me how many there were? Can you tell me how much of a contribution that made to the disaster?

    I’d never wish anything on anyone as bad as what happened at Hillsborough, Heysel, Ibrox (twice) Bradford or anywhere else. Ever. Nobody deserves to go through that.

    So many people have tragedies to live through, and sometimes it really is just a tragic accident. Sometimes there’s someone to blame. Most times there are lessons to be learned.

    I hope you never have a personal tragedy to live through. I hope the day never comes where you look back at these comments you made, reflecting on the pleasure you took from making them, remembering the smirk you undoubtedly had on your face, as you look in front of you at what you’ve just lost yourself.

    Because I’d take no pleasure from that. But I’d also have little sympathy.

    Go and do some research, a bit of reading, work out if it could have been your, your club, your family – and then see if you’re still laughing.

    If your club had been at Heysel, can you guarantee that all of your fans would have been well-behaved?

    If your club had been at Hillsborough, can you guarantee that a handful of your fans wouldn’t have climbed over a fence to get in – and would that have saved the rest of your fans when the police opened a gate to let thousands of them in?

    Stop guessing, start doing some research – and hope like hell it’s not you or yours that is set to suffer the next time something like this happens.

  9. The reason these comments were made were mainly because along with millions of others I am really bored with you and other professional mourners like you. when are you ever going to accept that it is down to Liverpool “fans” that so many died at Hysel (sorry for the earlier mis-spell, it can give you another thing to mourn) and other teams had to miss out in europe for years.
    I am a Rangers supporter and therefore well aware that tragedies happen.
    Submitted for you to spell check. x

  10. I know a few people who were bored (or worse) with the recent Jade Goody story. None of them, to my knowledge, sought out Jade Goody fan-sites to tell those Jade Goody fans that they were bored of hearing about her. They complained to each other, in their own circles, but they left Jade Goody and her world to get on with what was happening to her.

    Bored of “professional mourners” yet you go out of your way to seek them out.

    As for Heysel, why are you so bothered about other teams missing out on Europe? Your lot didn’t miss out on one year.

    It wasn’t LFC’s decision to ban all English teams from Europe. I assume you campaigned against the ban for those other English clubs you care for so much.

    In 1985 Liverpool supporters acted in a way that I was ashamed of from the minute I found out what had happened. I wasn’t there. But I was ashamed that people wearing my club’s colours wanted to fight at all.

    Sometimes I think of how different it might have been had that wall not collapsed. But it collapsed, and it collapsed because of the actions of our fans.

    The authorities over there could have avoided it happening if the stadium had not been in such a poor state. UEFA shouldn’t have let it be staged in such a poor stadium. The police were said to be poor there too. And if those lot had done their jobs, there’s no way a small number of idiots could have been given the power to kill 39 people.

    If someone walks into school tomorrow and kills 40 kids with a gun, one of the first questions asked will be where he got the gun from. He’d still be the killer. He’d still be the one charged with murder. But if someone shouldn’t have sold him that gun, they’ll face charges too. Recommendations will be made to avoid guns getting into the wrong hands in future.

    We accept our fans caused those 39 deaths, and we never forget that. There’s no excuse for those fans who caused those 39 deaths.

    But in Belgium they at least took some action to deal with those who’d armed the fans with the ability to kill 39 people. Unfortunately UEFA didn’t get any trouble for their part in it, as far as I know, and even now UEFA struggle to deal with big events like this, good fans or bad.

    Which reminds me of scenes in Manchester not that long ago. Some Scottish team turned up. And some of their fans got violent. No less violent than those Liverpool fans in Belgium. And certainly violent enough that had there been one dodgy wall in the wrong place there would have been loss of life.

    But does that mean all Rangers fans should be classed the same as the few who thought it was a good idea to start fighting in Manchester?

    Maybe you’re uptight because we’ve built up a nice relationship with Celtic. That’s partly down to Kenny Dalglish – who you’ll know was a Rangers fan as a kid. That link meant that Celtic were the first team we played after Hillsborough.

    But there’s no reason at all why we couldn’t have as good a relationship with Rangers.

    One of my memories of the last day of the standing Kop is chatting to a Rangers fan in the Kop. No idea how he got his ticket, they weren’t easy to get, but it was his first visit to Anfield, he had a broad Glasgow accent and was wearing his Rangers top. That was a day full of stories about Hillsborough – that was why the old Kop was being replaced. He was happy to be there.

    I don’t know for sure, but perhaps the Heysel tragedy would benefit from being looked at afresh. Any Reds who were involved and got away with it could be found and dealt with. A fresh look at how they got the power to kill people could be made and then we could look to see if we have everything in place nowadays to prevent it happening again.

    A fresh look at Hillsborough would help a lot of people. If it was down to Liverpool fans, even in a slight way, well let’s hear it, let’s see it dealt with. I doubt it – but I’d be more than happy to deal with it if there was some proof of it. Let’s make sure anyone who tried a cover-up is dealt with. Let’s make sure anyone who did wrong is dealt with, appropriately. Let’s make sure 100% that none of the mistakes or negligence of 1989 can come back and hit any of us again.

    It’s a pity you’re like this Andy, it really is.

  11. @”professional-mourner” ????

    God, you must be so intelligent with supreme knowledge about everything.

    Why don’t you go down and talk to the victims families about it. Real people whose lives were left devastated by a horrific tragedy.

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