Thirty-four years ago tomorrow, some 24,000 Liverpool fans traveled to Sheffield for the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.
It should have been a celebration of the best English football has to offer: two great teams led by the game’s giants, vying for the right to play at Wembley against the backdrop of the beautiful spring sun. Instead, the day descended into tragedy: 94 fans died on the day after catastrophic overcrowding at the end of the field at Leppings Lane led to a rush. Three others later died from injuries sustained that afternoon.
Hillsborough changed everything – for the families of those who perished, for the survivors traumatized by what they saw, and for English football more broadly – although it is a shame that the fight for justice was only just beginning. It took 27 years for the fans who had died to be fully exonerated, and a second inquest ruled that they had been unlawfully killed and that the blame instead lay with the South Yorkshire Police, Ambulance Service and the deficiencies of the stadium itself.
The events of the day itself and its harrowing aftermath have been well chronicled, not least the athlete. But as another anniversary approaches, we felt it was time to remember how these 97 men and women lived, not how they died, and to tell the human stories that underlie the dismal statistics.
said Kerry Aspinall, whose brother James died in Hillsboro and whose mother Margaret is chairman of the Hillsboro Family Support Group.
“Each of them left a huge hole in many lives. Telling the stories of who they were and why they were so lost is an important way to keep their memories and legacies alive.”
We wrote to the family members of all the fans who died, asking if they’d like to share their stories. Understandably, many did not want to relive the pain of that day and refused to participate. Others asked us to use pen pictures that they themselves or family members had read when the second investigation began in 2014.
But many of them wanted the world to know about the people they loved—what and who they cared about, their accomplishments and aspirations, and what might have happened if they had not been caught up in tragedy.
These are those stories – they are all free to read.
(Best photo by Eamon Dalton)
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