Yesterday (12/09/12) The Hillsborough Independent Panel reported on their findings after reviewing all of the documents relating to the 1989 disaster. It has opened up wounds for many people. A fellow Liverpool fan from Hull asked if anyone would publish his thoughts and experiences of what happened on 15th April 1989 and subsequently.
I am proud to have offered Mike Morris the opportunity to write his story. I hope he found it cathartic. This is his story.
On the 15th April 1989 I went to a football match. It wasn't at Hillsborough, it was at Fellows Park, Walsall. I couldn't go to the FA Cup Semi Final as I was working as a radio reporter on a Second Division game between Walsall and Hull City. I was hoping to catch score updates while I worked and then watch Match of the Day when I got home. A few short minutes after kick off I heard that there had been crowd trouble at Hillsborough and play had been suspended. I shook my head when I heard that Liverpool fans had come onto the pitch and felt anger at what I believed was an idiotic pitch invasion. As the game I was watching continued little bits of information filtered through. First we heard that there had been deaths. Then there were numbers – 14, 25, 50. I found it difficult to believe them. That many people couldn't be killed at a football match. My game finished. I can't remember the score, but by then we were told that more than 90 people had died. I made my way to Birmingham New Street Station for the trip back to Hull. On the concourse there were Everton fans who's seen their side win their FA Cup semi final. You'd never have guessed they were going to Wembley. Most looked stunned, many were in tears while others rang home to try and get more information. I thought it would be a good idea to call my mum and let her know that I hadn't gone. When I told her I was safe she told me that my dad was at the game and in The Leppings Lane end, but was ok and unhurt. I don't know what I'd have done if I'd known he was there and I was aware of a sickness in my stomach as I continued my journey. When I got back to Hull I watched Match of the Day. There were no football highlights. Des Lynam wore a black tie and dispensed with his usual louche manner. I stared at the screen trying to take in what had happened. I felt like I should cry, but I was twenty with little knowledge of life. I could sympathise with those who'd lost sons and daughters, but didn't feel the loss in the same way. My Liverpool away top was sent to Sheffield with a friend the next day to be laid at Hillsborough with messages from fans from around the country.I could do that and somehow feel like I'd done something to help.
My dad went to Anfield the next day to pay his respects and count his blessings. We didn't speak about what had happened and what he'd seen for years. When he did talk it wasn't in a torrent. It took quite some time over a period of years for him to tell me what he'd seen. He'd not been to a Liverpool game for about 6 or 7 years prior to the semi final, but a neighbour got two tickets and asked if he wanted to go. They travelled across the Pennines together, but split up near the ground as they were in different parts of the stadium. When my dad got to the Leppings Lane end he said that there was a huge crowd of people trying to get in. As he headed in he became aware of just how busy it was. Men were pushed together and he said that one lad in front of him started panicking after being lifted off his feet by the wave of people . He pulled the kid's arms down by his side and tried to work his way backwards through the throng. My dad said that they were incredibly lucky to get out. The tide of supporters seemed to spit them out towards the exit rather than swallowing them up. The teenager bolted once he was free. Away from the ground, anywhere but in that crush. Away from the main body of supporters attempts were being made to save lives. Grey faces and desperation. My dad rant to a Police Sergeant and told him to get on his radio and call for help, “What f***ing radio?” he said. My dad walked away from the ground in a daze. His friend had watched the it all from the seats above the Leppings Lane terrace. Amazingly they found each other and headed home. It was only later that they discovered the scale of the disaster.
The loss of life was compounded by the insults, smears and lies print by The Sun the following week. The Taylor Report contradicted all of those claims, but the damage had been done. I've had numerous rows with people who said that the disaster wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for drunken ticketless supporters. Most Liverpool fans I know have had to ask the question “Have you read the Taylor Report”. Sometimes supporters have simply been ignorant of the facts and on other occasions their claims have been malicious, but The Sun and the concerted cover up by South Yorkshire Police are to blame for a narrative which accused the victims of being responsible for their own deaths and accused those who desperately tried to save them of robbing them and desecrating their bodies. That's tough enough for me to take as a Liverpool fan, but imagine how it must feel if you're the mother or father of a child who died. Even in death they were treated as criminal suspects. Children tested to see if they were drunk or if they had criminal records. The craven attempts by the police to push the blame away from themselves to the victims might have worked if it hadn't been for the quiet determination of campaigners to push for the truth. They brushed off accusations of “wallowing in grief” and dealt with the numerous setbacks to their cause. Finally the truth has been laid bare. It's now time for justice.
You can follow Mike on Twitter @BaldyMemike.
You'll Never Walk Alone