A Passing Memory?

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I heard the news that fateful afternoon.

Momentarily,

My world came to a halt.

Those with no one to love, to hold, to lose,

Looked only for who was at fault.

The scenes of horror soaked my fearful mind.

None of the tears I cried that day

Could wring out what I saw.

Terror, death and terror

Will remain forever more.

Fears increased.

The need to know.

My call connected. But what to say?

“Had he been there? Please say ‘No’.

Only I’m sure I saw him in the crowd.

No? Oh, Thank God!”

A tide of warmth envelopes me.

Nothing more is heard.

Replacing the receiver, I laugh then cry.

How absurd!

Overwhelmed by ecstatic relief,

I return to watch the reports.

Realisation that many aren’t to be so lucky,

And my happiness retorts.

Kept alive by the slightest chance,

(He couldn’t afford the ticket)

My friend remains in body and soul,

While others just in spirit.

What of those others and those they leave behind?

Beautiful children, budding adults, young and old,

But all were of one mind:

To give support to their team, the reds.

How were they to know

That day they’d meet their deaths?

But how soon will you forget their loss?

Leaving the mourning to those who care,

To those the dead saw as ‘their own’.

Leaving them to show those innocents

                       “You’ll never walk alone.”

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I wrote the above poem in April 1989, a few days after the tragedy at Hillsborough. An LFC fan since I was six, thanks to my Nan, I had watched in horror as events unfolded on TV that afternoon. This soon turned to blind panic, when I became convinced I’d seen my friend John in the crush. He lived in Warrington, and regularly  attended Liverpool’s matches. Thankfully, I eventually discovered he hadn’t been able to afford to go to that Saturday’s game.

I stumbled upon my poem, now somewhat battered with age, during a declutter the day after the BBC’s documentary on Hillsborough aired. It made reading something I hadn’t seen for over 25 years all the more poignant. As always, thoughts are with those we lost on  15th April 1989, their families, friends and loved ones.

You’ll Never Walk Alone.

 

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Hillsborough Remembered…

Aside

Whilst I have a lot of happy memories of the Eighties, today marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most tragic events, and the saddest memory I have of the decade. Few will have failed to notice that it was 25 years ago today that 96 fans of Liverpool F.C. lost their lives at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough Stadium. For those of us who remember that fateful Saturday, our compassion and sympathy seem inadequately hollow, alongside the pain still felt by those haunted by memories of that day. Speaking to the BBC today, Bruce Grobbelaar recalls “It all happened right behind my goal. I can see those images today, if I think about it. They will never leave. It doesn’t get removed from your mind. I will never forget.” Perhaps those who have continued to spout vile comments, based on lies, online today should listen to those who were actually there.

Despite being born and bred in Kent, I have been a Liverpool supporter for as long as I can remember, probably due to my Nan, who was also an ardent fan. In 1986, thanks to Smash Hits magazine, I gained a Scouse penfriend, John. He came to visit me at the end of that year, along with a few of his friends. It was the first of many meetings between us, both down south (or France, as they refer to Kent!) and up north (I can remember the first time we took the ferry ‘cross the Mersey like it was yesterday) and the beginning of a number of friendships that have stood the test of time. As with all good friendships, they became part of the family – my Nan was never happier than in the company of her “Liverpool Lads”. It has continued through the generations too, as Wayne (the only one old enough to drive on that initial visit) is godfather to my son.

Both Wayne and John would regularly attend Liverpool’s matches, so when news of the disaster broke on 15th April 1989, I was desperate to know they were safe. These were the days before social media provided a second by second commentary on the world, and I sat glued to the television screen, in a state of disbelief at the scenes we were being shown. At one point, the camera honed in on part of the crowd being crushed against the fence. I was convinced I had seen John in that crowd. I have no coherent memory of the day after that, and cannot recall how I came to discover that neither Wayne nor John had been at the match. It’s not something I’ve ever felt the need to probe – just knowing they were safe was enough.

The family and friends of those who died that day were not as fortunate, and it is with them that my thoughts are today, as they are every time I hear  “You’ll Never Walk Alone” being sung. Let us hope that the current inquest, being held in Warrington, will eventually show the world the truth about the tragedy, and there will finally be Justice For The 96.