The Hillsborough disaster on April 15, 1989 changed Liverpool Football Club and it’s connection with fans forever.
On the club’s darkest day, 96 fans lost their lives at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough Stadium during an FA Cup semi-final match against Nottingham Forest. No one should ever go to something so trivial as a football match and not come back.
It is a day synonymous with modern-day Liverpool—the club and the city. Ingrained in the hearts of all connected with the club, to football and beyond, Hillsborough will always evoke feelings of pain and sadness, but also inspiration.
In his 2011 autobiography My Liverpool Home, Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool manager at the time of the disaster revealed, “Hillsborough haunts me still.”
On the relationship Hillsborough has forged between the club, the families of the victims and the fans, Dalglish said this month, per Carl Markham in the Daily Mail:
There was a special bond between the club and supporters before that but I think it increased after Hillsborough and in the immediate aftermath there were some very poignant moments and some things which will live in people's memories for ever.
This football club has loyal supporters and 25 years ago when they were in a bit of trouble it was our chance, as a club, to show our support for them.
Dalglish attended the funerals of every victim of Hillsborough—including four on one day. The poignancy of this ambassadorial role struck the hearts of many.
Hillsborough Justice Campaign
Following the disaster, the club’s anthem, "You’ll Never Walk Alone," never seemed so apt, and the line, “At the end of the storm there’s a golden sky” resonates with the justice campaign.
Campaigning relentlessly for 25 years, the families of the disaster are yet to receive justice for that fateful day. However, new evidence uncovered by the Hillsborough Independent Panel in 2012 has led to the original verdict of “accidental death” being quashed, and a fresh inquest is underway. The golden sky of justice is within sight.
The Hillsborough Justice Campaign has been, and continues to be, a heart-wrenching display of complete, enduring love. Setback after setback, the families and campaigners have continued to fight for the names of their loved ones, as they attempt to overturn the public and media assumptions and lies about the tragedy.
Current Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers will deliver a speech at the Hillsborough Memorial Service at Anfield on Tuesday. Prior to it, he paid tribute to the families, per Ian Herbert of the Independent:
To see the fight from the families…
It would have been so easy for people to give up, but the relentlessness of their campaign has continued and it provides such inspiration.
For me, I see so much of life’s values and ethics in their work and again it is not something I shy away from.
I embrace it because it is a life’s work what they are putting in. I would look at it not so much as a manager but as a person on what I can gain from that.
Sadly, this year’s memorial service will be the first without one of the key figures in the justice campaign.
Anne Williams lost her battle with cancer at the age of 62 on April 18, 2013. An inspirational woman, Anne fought tirelessly for a new enquiry following the death of her son Kevin at Hillsborough.
Following her death, Anne was posthumously awarded the Helen Rollason Award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards—a ceremony which included a fitting tribute to Anne, read by actress Sue Johnston:
Anne and the Hillsborough Justice Campaign’s fight for justice of the 96 victims is a remarkable story—a journey of exhausting, emotional pain and achievement.
Their work is a source of inspiration not just for Liverpool fans, but humanity in general.
Inspiration For A City And The World
Liverpool was rocked by the Hillsborough disaster but now embodies it in the ethos, philosophies and drive of the club.
The club’s crest now features two eternal flames in memory of the 96 fans whilst there are memorials on Anfield Road, Liverpool city centre, Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral and various other locations throughout Merseyside and Sheffield.
A disaster that affected the whole city of Liverpool, Everton announced their plans for a permanent memorial at Goodison Park in 2014.
These reminders of the Hillsborough disaster and the 96 victims it took will forever serve as inspiration, hope and faith among all.