Hillsborough JFT96 – some thoughts and thanks

The report published today which I havent read yet and I still dont know if I ever will vindicates the families fight all these years and takes away blame from the victims and their friends and families.  That is some ‘closure’ but even if all those police and ambulance staff who altered statements and all others cuplable are tried and convicted I dont think full closure can or will ever happen.  Too many police officers were allowed to retire early with nice golden payoffs and many will no longer be living.  Too many family members and friends of the 96 will also have died in the last 23 years too and … 

I was at Hillsborough and luckily and unusually for me and my brother-in-law we had a stand ticket.  Very rare in those days to go to an ‘away’ match and not be standing on the terraces, caged terraces lest we forget.

A few friends and family members this week have asked if I am ok. They didnt mention this upcoming report about Hillsborough as they didnt have to, its been a common question asked to thousands of people here in Liverpool in pubs, in work, in homes this week such is the media attention over this Hillborough report.  Nobody asks you how you have coped with 23 or more years of grief and anger and bitterness or any other emotion, they know you will tell them how you cope or how you have coped if you want to and also respect if you dont and change the subject.

The only thing I have ever volunteered is that the ordinary person in Sheffield doesnt get the credit or thanks they deserve.  Walking from Hillsborough back to the coach we came on, every house we walked past had someone standing at the gate asking if we wanted to try and phone home, asking if you wanted a brandy. Many including myself tried to phone home but lines were too busy and I mean landlines as this was before mobiles.

The humanity of the people of Sheffield has never truly been applauded in showing common decency in caring about thousands of football supporters walking about in a daze and offering them the opportunity of phoning home.  It should be noted and I for one am very thankful for it.  Remembering that humanity and decency is how I have coped.

I choose to remember that rather than passing someone I knew outside the ground and without any words being spoken the relief in each others faces that you were both still alive. Rather than the chilled but thankful silence and me and my brother-in-law got on the coach home to fill the last two empty seats on that coach that all others must have been looking at. Rather than the complete silence all the way back on the coach, even 6 and 7 year olds were silent all the way home.  Rather than the silence from the radio being switched off on the coach until we were in radio range of Radio Merseyside which when switched on an hour or so after we began the journey home was saying the death toll as high as 90 to an audible gasp on the coach, but then more silence. Rather than waiting in a huge queue outside a public telephone box as we got off the coach to let our families know we were alive.

The common humanity and decency of ordinary Sheffield folk I may have chosen to remember rather than focus on all those other memories perhaps as a copin mechanism, yet I am deeply grateful for it and will never forget it.  Thank you.  




5 thoughts on “Hillsborough JFT96 – some thoughts and thanks

  1. That’s a very moving article Joe. I had never heard that before about the people of Sheffield. A good friend of mine (Liverpool) was also in the ground that day – his name is Brian Clough would you believe – and I can remember the shock, and his shock, still. It seemed unreal that such a tragedy could be happening at an event that was meant to be about sport and leisure. It’s still shocking.

    1. Yes Colin and it always will be shocking and a memory that cant be erased. And despite the truth coming out today Eric (Kelvin) Pickles has said today on R4’s TheWorld at One that alcohol and unruly behaviour played a part!! Cameron should sack him with immediate effect.

      It is idiots like him making outrageous ‘tell a lie often enough and people will believe it’ comments that makes matter so much worse.

      The ordinary folk of Sheffield were magnificent and very much deserve to be thanked for their humanity

  2. Very moving account Joe. Thank you for taking the time to post. I was shown the released footage during training as a demonstration of how and why fire spreads. It was horrific and the room was silent. Out of that tragedy fire safety greatly improved.

    We can only hope that something preventable like that will never happen again.

    1. David, to put this in context all football fans were characterised as hooligans and a bad lot at the time deserving of cages football grounds were then and deserving of police herding them like cattle to football matches etc…., yet ordinary Sheffield folk came out of their houses to offer a brandy and use of telephone to the dazed and confused “hooligan” -humanity of the highest order typical of northerners in general .

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