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You'll never walk again
April 15, 2009 5:25 AM   Subscribe

20 years ago today, a crush of fans at the Leppings Lane entrance of Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough Stadium killed 96 people, among them the cousin of current Liverpool player Steven Gerrard (who has the dubious honour of being the youngest victim). Coming just 4 years after the Heysel stadium disaster, which killed 39 people and was officially blamed on Liverpool fans, and almost two decades of hooligan violence, the most obvious or convenient conclusion was that history had repeated itself.

The intervening years have seen bitter recriminations, against the Police and also The Sun - who repeated the accusation that Liverpool fans brought about the disaster and disgraced themselves - and a government enquiry. Still, to this day, many feel the real story has yet to come out.

*The post title is deliberately ironic. Although the subversion of Anfield's iconic son "You'll Never Walk Alone" predates Hillsborough, it is still occasionally chanted by opposing fans mocking the disaster.
posted by MuffinMan (61 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
An almost unreadable story in the Observer Sport Monthly in March brought this all back to my mind.
posted by Jofus at 5:38 AM on April 15, 2009 [7 favorites]


A boy near me lost his brother at the match -- he commited suicide six months later. Another to add to the ninety six.

From across the park, you'll never walk alone.
posted by popcassady at 5:44 AM on April 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


I still remember the announcer saying the poor man as he was on fire rolling around :-(
posted by SatansCabanaboy at 5:45 AM on April 15, 2009


I still remember the announcer saying the poor man as he was on fire rolling around :-(

What does that even mean?
posted by MrMustard at 5:47 AM on April 15, 2009


Sickening that policing and stadium management could have allowed such a thing to happen. Worse to think that it could have happened at dozens of other grounds as well. Even worse that no-one was really held accountable, and that the Sun lied and the Police covered things up.

It's worth reading the Hillsborough Justice Campaign (the 'bitter recriminations' link in the first post).

From a Man Utd fan, RIP. YNWA.

.

I still remember the announcer saying the poor man as he was on fire rolling around :-(

Are you thinking of the Bradford Stadium Fire?
posted by Infinite Jest at 5:52 AM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


To be fair, MuffinMan, although I'm not a regular at Anfield, I'd be surprised if many football fans would deliberately mock the Hillsborough disaster - "Sign on, sign on, with pen in your hand, and you'll never work again" is a different matter.

Roy Greenslade has a piece recounting the experience of watching the disaster unfold while working at the Sunday Times (and also criticising McKenzie and the Sun's coverage).
posted by athenian at 5:59 AM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


.

I was on Church Street - main shopping area in central Liverpool - when the news of the disaster broke. I remember the whole place going quiet.
posted by rongorongo at 6:01 AM on April 15, 2009


Walk again..?

Very insulting. Especially for any survivors who have to use a wheelchair.
posted by Webbster at 6:03 AM on April 15, 2009


Oh I just spotted the small print.
Still... could have chosen not to use that.
posted by Webbster at 6:04 AM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


For any of our cousins across the pond who may be unfamiliar with this story, I recommend the Guardian piece.

Justice for the 96
posted by fullerine at 6:12 AM on April 15, 2009


I'd mentioned in the thread on the death of Ian Tomlinson during the recent G20 protests that the way police lied there had long precedent, not least in the Hillsborough disaster. The testimony from the ambulance worker in the link Jofus is just one of many that refute the story they concocted afterwards. (10 minute film on how the disaster happened from same people)
posted by Abiezer at 6:18 AM on April 15, 2009


Alan Green (who was one of the BBC's commentators on the game that day, and is a Liverpool fan) recounted his experience this morning on Radio 4's Today programme.
posted by Electric Dragon at 6:19 AM on April 15, 2009


Geez, Jofus, that's a disturbing and incredible article.

I was 8 at the time, in Australia, with more of an interest in Aussie Rules than "soccer", but somehow it affected me, and I still have images in my mind of the TV playing "You'll never walk alone" over images of the scenes at the ground, and people laying flowers, for weeks afterwards.

I've always wanted more information about how the players reacted - my sister told me that after they realized what was happening, they were trying to pull down the fences surrounding the field. Is this true?
posted by Jimbob at 6:22 AM on April 15, 2009


I see Abiezer's already noted the connection with the death of Ian Tomlinson, but this is a good piece (from a friend of mine) that draws it out in more detail.
posted by flashboy at 6:23 AM on April 15, 2009


Aah I'm just up to the part of the article from Peter Beardsley. Let me read on...
posted by Jimbob at 6:26 AM on April 15, 2009


[few comments removed - early LOLTRAGEDY comments not that cool]
posted by jessamyn at 6:33 AM on April 15, 2009


Jimbob - yeah, I found myself subconsciously holding my breath while reading it

That crush barrier was a few feet to my right, but I didn't see it. Because the light was slowly closing around my head. By now I was gasping for breath, and worried that my neck wasn't moving freely. Within feet of me people were standing dead, bolt upright. Three men had long stopped breathing and were now staring, with a fixed, almost disinterested expression, into the distance. Their faces were bleached white, but turning blue, their lips a cold violet. The only comfort I could find was that thousands of people who were still alive were now shouting for help, screaming, "There are people dead in here!" There were CCTV cameras trained on us. And there were police just a few feet in front of the fence who must have realised that metal crush barriers in our pen were bursting out of the ground.

Unbelievably, at 3pm, the match kicked off...

posted by Jofus at 6:35 AM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


i don't think you can underestimate the impact this disaster had on working class culture in the u.k. yes, english and british football was very much in the dark ages back then, but we lost something more than the 95 (1 died later) people who died that day. football was never the same afterwards. it still has its moments but the crass commercialization and let's face it--mcdonaldization--of football is one of hillsborough's legacies and for me, at least, i'd welcome some kind of return to terracing at grounds.

one of my own personal memories of hillsborough is that i attended a match the day afterwards (hibs vs. celtic in a scottish cup final). looking back, it's astounding that they played a fixture the day after. i know for a fact that wouldn't happen now. i also went to the first game liverpool played after hillsborough, when they played celtic at parkhead in a friendly. amazing atmosphere at that game too.

and in more coverage i thought the bbc piece today was very evocative (probably accentuated by hearing peter jones again; puts idiots like alan green to shame). i remember watching ceefax the rest of the afternoon to get updates in those pre-www days.

o yeah: i think the title of this post is kinda weird too. wouldnae be the first thing that came to my mind.
posted by iboxifoo at 6:40 AM on April 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm just up to the part of the article from Peter Beardsley
Beardsley notes how well Kenny Dalglish and his wife Marina carried themselves in the aftermath, going to as many of the funerals as they could and visiting the injured in hospital. Always admired the man for that myself, too.
posted by Abiezer at 6:41 AM on April 15, 2009


The Sun - who repeated the accusation that Liverpool fans brought about the disaster and disgraced themselves

(Can't get your article to load, so this may be addressed, but) I was reading one of the wikipedia article the other day, and this was amazing to me:

"To this day, many people in the Liverpool area refuse to buy The Sun as a matter of principle, and the paper's sales figures within Merseyside have been very poor since the day the original story was printed. As of 2004, the average circulation in Liverpool was still just 12,000 copies a day, 200,000 fewer than before the controversial article was published."

Good for them.
posted by inigo2 at 7:05 AM on April 15, 2009


Oh, and what a game yesterday...Almost pulled it off...
posted by inigo2 at 7:08 AM on April 15, 2009


Change the post title, please YOU SICK FUCK.
posted by the cuban at 7:10 AM on April 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


I've always wanted more information about how the players reacted - my sister told me that after they realized what was happening, they were trying to pull down the fences surrounding the field. Is this true?

I don't recall that from watching it live at the time. I do recall people on the terraces trying to pull down the fences as the police beat them back, believing they were simply trying to rush the pitch.

Though any fool could see that they weren't trying to rush the pitch. They weren't kids, they were middle aged men and older. They were simply trying to relieve the pressure to avoid being crushed to death.

It was pretty horrendous -- a bit like one of those Faces of Death videos. You were watching people having the life squashed out of them while the TV cameras focused on their terrible distress and the police did absolutely fuck all.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:10 AM on April 15, 2009


inigo2 - Its one of those things that is at once stereotypical and entirely accurate about scousers. The literal refusal to have anything to do with the paper is perhaps a bit more rare than the legend suggests, but there is a genuine, palpable sense of betrayal and underlying anger at what The Sun did after Hillsborough - and you don't have to be a maniac Kophead to feel it.
posted by Jofus at 7:11 AM on April 15, 2009


Oh and for anyone who's never seen it, Jimmy McGovern's dramatization of the subject is well worth your time.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:17 AM on April 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was in Sheffield that day... walked into a pub and saw the aftermath on television, asked the barman if it was hooliganism, he just shrugged his shoulders and said it was something to do with overcrowding, not knowing how bad it was going to be. Didn't know it at the time but a friend of the friend was at the match and he was one of the 96.

Went out with friends for a pint that night... town was very subdued for a Saturday. My main memory was fans passing around buckets to collect money.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:25 AM on April 15, 2009


Jofus, thanks for that article, it's simply heartrending to hear their stories told so honestly and plainly.
posted by Sova at 7:26 AM on April 15, 2009


The video reports from the first link are hard to watch, especially that of Tony Edwards, the ambulanceman who also told his story in The Observer article linked by Jofus. I got the sense that he has a crushing sense of guilt about his actions that day. I can't honestly claim with any certainty that I would have done any better in a similar situation. I hope I never have to find out.
posted by Kattullus at 7:41 AM on April 15, 2009


Tribute at the San Siro four days later when AC Milan played Real Madrid in a European cup semi, minute of silence then Milan fans sing You'll Never Walk Alone.
posted by Abiezer at 7:42 AM on April 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


.

Wow, what a sad story.
posted by schyler523 at 7:43 AM on April 15, 2009


I was all set to watch the game - and record it - at my parent's house in Ireland (RTE2 showed live UK matches even back then). I was 25 at the time, and a Liverpool supporter. As the tragedy unfolded my father, a doctor, started pointing out to me the people who were lying on advertising hoardings being used as makeshift stretchers by the fans. That one's dead, those two girls are dead, that one's also dead. I'll never forget it.

As for The Sun - absolutely disgusting. I've never looked at it since. Some years later former player and at the time manager, Graeme Souness gave an interview to The Sun about his recent heart operation, the fans' turned on him. To this day the foreign players are all told about the past, and how important it is to remember and act accordingly. Last night Fabio Aurelio - a Brazilian, pointed to the sky in reference to the 96 after he scored his goal. Fernando Torres did the same last week in the defeat of Blackburn.

At about 5 minutes past three my father got a phone call and brought the cordless phone into the room. This interfered with the VCR which stopped recording at that point. Eerie.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 7:45 AM on April 15, 2009


The memorial service at Anfield has just finished. Gerry Marsden led the crowd in a rousing rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 8:34 AM on April 15, 2009


I don't understand how, once you recognized that you were in a crush like this, and that people around you were starting to lose consciousness or worse, you wouldn't start rioting in an effort to get out. I'm sure it could have actually made things worse for the people trapped with you, but how do people not flare up when put into this situation? I do see that people were screaming at the police to let them out, that people were dying, and the police didn't, but what prevented people from forcing their way through the fences and gates? (I'm not familiar with the layout, so I honestly don't know if the barriers were something that absolutely could not have been destroyed by an angry mob.)
posted by quin at 8:41 AM on April 15, 2009


The barriers were designed to pen 'hooligans' in, quin. They wren't just barriers; they were cages. Given that people were having the life crushed out of them at the front by the sheer pressure of thousands upon thousands from behind, there's no extra force they could have have brought to bear against the barriers that would have been greater than that - and that's even if they could move at all, which, as the article Jofus linked to agonisingly explains, they couldn't.
posted by flashboy at 8:47 AM on April 15, 2009


"Wou'll Never Walk Again"?

wtf I hope that's a mis-type.
posted by Zambrano at 9:01 AM on April 15, 2009


Zambrano, the Cuban. Read the post.
"*The post title is deliberately ironic. Although the subversion of Anfield's iconic son "You'll Never Walk Alone" predates Hillsborough, it is still occasionally chanted by opposing fans mocking the disaster."
posted by Jofus at 9:12 AM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks flashboy. I guess what I'm wondering is at some point just prior to not being able to move at all, didn't people realize that it was more than claustrophobic and becoming dangerous? Was there just an assumption that no one in authority would allow a real crush to happen and being patient was the civil thing to do or something?

I just can't imagine being in a crowd and allowing it to reach the point where not only can't I move, but I start losing the ability to breath before I begin the process of freaking the fuck out.

Of course, I grew up knowing how dangerous situations like this could be (probably because of events like this exact one having already happened) and have developed a healthy and reasonable fear of dying because someone wouldn't open a door.
posted by quin at 9:16 AM on April 15, 2009


Quin, I think the linked article explains this experience really well. One guy was just walking through the tunnel when he was swept off his feet in a massive crowd surge. It all seems to have happened really quickly.

And

.
posted by ask me please at 9:25 AM on April 15, 2009


I remember watching it live on TV when I was 11. A horrible thing to see, no doubt a million times worse to experience.

You'll never walk alone.
posted by modernnomad at 9:35 AM on April 15, 2009


You'll never walk again

Thread needs a Wylie corrective. Say Wah!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:36 AM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I guess what I'm wondering is at some point just prior to not being able to move at all, didn't people realize that it was more than claustrophobic and becoming dangerous?

I was in some of the crowds at inauguration, trying to get into one of the ticketed areas. THE CROWDS WERE NOTHING AS BAD AS THIS, BUT, it was amazing how quickly at one point it went from me feeling very crowded, to me feeling kinda scared, with the thought that if I fell down there was nothing I could do. If the gates hadn't been open (however slowly they were letting people in) I have no doubt it would've gotten much worse with the crush of people in the back just pushing pushing pushing.
posted by inigo2 at 9:47 AM on April 15, 2009


I had a similar experience at the inauguration. It took me ten minutes to travel half a block.
posted by Kattullus at 10:04 AM on April 15, 2009


Jofus, thanks for the article. I'm with iboxifoo, this totally changed the face of British football.

Hillsborough was a terrible tragedy, and a preventable one.
posted by ob at 10:35 AM on April 15, 2009


.

And yes, post title leaves very much to be desired.
posted by dopamine at 10:54 AM on April 15, 2009


The literal refusal to have anything to do with the paper is perhaps a bit more rare than the legend suggests

I don't think it is. I never, never see anyone other than out-of-towners with The Sun. Plenty of people buy The Mirror, but not the Sun and some stores still don't carry the paper. As both my husband and his brother were at the Hillsborough match, I learned early on about Liverpool's feeling towards the Sun and I support them wholeheartedly.

What's really disgusting to me is that as if a deliberate, sensational smear about Liverpudlians on the part of the Sun (based on a lazy stereotype) wasn't enough - it further served to obscure the heroic and selfless behaviour of many of the fans at the match (illustrating the true good and helpful nature of scousers, in my experience), who helped to pull people out of the crush and administer CPR, amongst other things.

That the Sun didn't even bother to make mention of the anniversary on its cover today, unlike all the other papers, just reinforces all of my opinions of it.

I'm proud of Liverpool today.
posted by triggerfinger at 11:03 AM on April 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


So from the article I'm gathering that people with legitimate tickets weren't allowed to enter on the "wrong" end of the stadium, but were let in on the end backing their own team, which helped encourage the overcrowding? What the hell is up with that? The number of times I've been to a sporting event and seen opposing team fans seated amidst the home team fans... christ, people died because they weren't allowed to use the tickets they had purchased? Don't they assign sections and limit ticket numbers for a reason?

Completely pointless. Completely avoidable.

I didn't pay a lot of attention to international sporting news back in high school, but I remember this from the inevitable tasteless jokes and pop culture references. My impression from this side of the pond had been that unruly fans caused the incident. Thanks for setting me straight.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:06 AM on April 15, 2009


.
posted by shannonm at 11:45 AM on April 15, 2009


I was watching Sky News this morning, where they were talking about this. Of course, the Sky coverage pales in comparison to this FPP. I absolutely cannot think of a worse way to die. I've had nightmares about it, and usually avoid enormous crowds because of it.

What's really striking to me about this story is the absolutely sickening way in which police and media sought to shunt responsibility for the disaster off of authorities and onto the fans. I think there must be a special ring of hell just for these cowards.

Anyways, excellent albeit heartbreaking post.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:49 PM on April 15, 2009


And yes, post title leaves very much to be desired.

Let me be the second person to point out the words under the FPP, in bold this time, in case anyone else missed it:

The post title is deliberately ironic. Although the subversion of Anfield's iconic son "You'll Never Walk Alone" predates Hillsborough, it is still occasionally chanted by opposing fans mocking the disaster.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:52 PM on April 15, 2009


"Ironic" isn't a get-out-of-jail-free card for "tasteless".
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:20 PM on April 15, 2009 [8 favorites]


No one's saying it is. It's clearly referencing - as it says in the text - a chant used by opposing fans mocking the disaster. Which also ties into the way authorities and media depicted the disaster as being the result of unruly fans.

I don't really get where people are thinking the post title was an attempt at black humor.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:31 PM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry. I've flagged this.
CHANGE THE TITLE or delete this. I am offended.
posted by Webbster at 1:47 PM on April 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


The number of times I've been to a sporting event and seen opposing team fans seated amidst the home team fans... christ, people died because they weren't allowed to use the tickets they had purchased?

Consider this in the context of what happened at Heysel (as linked in the post) and the general level of violence at matches prior to Hillsborough. The separation of supporters of different sides was an attempt to prevent situations like Heysel from happening again.
posted by asterix at 1:51 PM on April 15, 2009


I had known about the disaster and the Sun controversy for a long time, but I just recently learned that even Everton supporters refuse to buy The Sun, which is satisfying to hear.

Also, as an American, (assuming no trickery by TV sound guys) when they have a minute of silence over there, they do it right.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 2:17 PM on April 15, 2009


.
posted by idb at 2:26 PM on April 15, 2009


Stylus Happenstance: sometimes yes, sometimes no. Quite often now they will have a minute's applause instead of silence - so in case people start booing or otherwise making noise, it gets drowned out. And at the time some fans ignored the minute's silence (e.g. Millwall, see here).
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:57 PM on April 15, 2009


Oh and for anyone who's never seen it, Jimmy McGovern's dramatization of the subject is well worth your time.

Thanks for that, Peter. This post (er… the tragedy, that is) makes me outraged, and I'm on the other side of the ocean. What in the hell is up with the British police accidentally losing videos caught by CCTV? It's getting ridiculous.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:51 PM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


There was an excellent look at the Hillsborough Tragedy and the aftermath in an hour-long program that aired last Saturday. It can be found in 6 parts on YouTube starting here.
posted by shannonm at 6:41 PM on April 15, 2009


All: I thought about the title a wee bit and debated whether to go with the obvious choice or the one I went for. None of the connotations of "You'll Never Walk Alone" seemed to convey the bitterness of Hillsborough, the cruelty what happened to the people in the pens and the burning sense of injustice.

I also decided not to jump into the thread to explain the title because I'm not a fan of the original poster claiming some special sort of ownership over what their posts after they've gone up. I can understand why it would seem offensive or disrespectful, but I had hoped my brief explanation would show that the post title was chosen knowingly and not casually, and that the sympathetic content of the post would speak for themselves.

Mods: I don't mind at all if the post title gets changed. The original intent was to provoke thought, not derail the thread.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:41 AM on April 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


What's really striking to me about this story Britain is the absolutely sickening way in which police and media sought seek to shunt responsibility for the any disaster off of authorities and onto the fans people.

See also: Jean Charles de Menezes, G20, Kingsworth (and that's just in recent times) ...

Thanks to Marisa STPT.
posted by bright cold day at 2:03 AM on April 16, 2009


Oh my God. I had never heard of Hillsborough before this. I am literally shaking with rage and fright right now, after reading the descriptions in that Guardian article. So horrible -- not just the deaths, but the complete lack of justice for them, even after all these years.
posted by Asparagirl at 5:48 PM on April 16, 2009


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