by Chris Tobin
In the 24 years that have passed since 15th April 1989 – At such a pace that it would seem like the interim years have somehow eluded me – I have ruminated about that fateful day on many occasions, reflected upon my ignorant, and at times unconscious thought toward the effect that it would have upon me as a young man, how ultimately it would change my perspective not only on football and Liverpool, but my life itself – How I would go on to deal with my experiences, and relate those back to that day.
I have only ever written about Hillsborough on two occasions in all those years, mainly defensive articles, predominantly in reply to those individuals who have taken it upon themselves to contemptuously deride the day itself – in magnification of printed words, or ramblings intent on riding on the back of rage fixated articles. A cacophony of lies have been twisted manipulated and repeated as if freedom of speech allowed such brutal banging of a delusional drum, extenuated by those protagonists responsible.
Liverpool people have constantly become targets from some hell-bent on portraying both supporters of the club, and residents of the city, with a media tar brush focused on painting them as constant victims – attention seeking that includes feigning and exaggerating both illness and its effect – in a pursuit of a sick-note from society.
I was 22 years old in April 1989, no longer a boy; unquestionably I was neither a man. I had no idea what I would become, like many young people of that age I had however convinced myself that I was indeed invincible, and could not care less where my life would lead me, or how I could facilitate the journey.
Bravado and self-confident I would stride through the mid-eighties –Fight with the police on picket lines, battle against Thatcher’s Britain, obsessed with Alan Bleasdale. I purposely strode through my days carefree, fear having been abandoned long since. I would assume a similar arrogance as my peers, believe nothing, and question everything. If my fingers could not touch it, feel it then surely it did not exist.
When I see images from Hillsborough, stills of people fighting for their last breath, negotiating broken bodies in mis-held belief that they were aiding Emergency Services, when fundamentally they had in fact taken over those jobs, whilst minutes away those employed to do that very job would be held back by those in power, unaware how their dereliction of duty would take over 20 years to come to light – To return and haunt them.
As I watched from my vantage point which hours earlier I had specifically located, credence that this very spot would be exactly where I would view my heroes progress toward Wembley as they would proficiently deliver silverware once again.
The scouse hijacked terrain amongst opposing fans where I would find myself, would indeed if for the wrong reasons be an incredible vantage point – Clearly we would see lifeless bodies who only moments earlier would struggle for their last gasping breath, laid out in some sort of macabre pageant for the deceased. In my mind I need not go so deep to envisage those sights once more.
I’m still not completely sure how my mind attempted to process images from that day – Dead bodies being carried & taken from where they had fallen, to be placed on dismantled advertising hoarding – used as stretchers. This would be the first time in my short life I would see someone dead or dying before my eyes, as crippling close as I could touch them. I’m not really sure that these words could do such an image justice.
I had only ever seen one dead person prior to Hillsborough – An old nun at my primary school she would be 70 or 80 years of age. This day I would see possibly 30 more, supposed lifeless bodies in the space of an hour – Middle aged men and women, interspersed would be the motionless bodies of children. I am at pain to call them Dead as we all now know this may not have been the case, and the thought that we were indeed witnessing children dying, is a horrific thought, quite haunting.
I would not lose my life at Hillsborough that day, nor would I lose blood relatives – For years I would feel guilty that I actually felt that I gained from that very experience, maybe a sick disturbing understanding of the true effects of that day. Down the years I have met people who in a sense “ dined out” on the fact they survived Hillsborough – I can say that, but not without remorse, having at times being guilty of that myself – That is what we do as humans at times, am I sorry? Yes, most definitely. The immediate years after Hillsborough the trauma would have different compounding effect of people – Different types of people.
That is maybe the point, you can’t change how you were many years ago, but you can regretfully take a look back in an attempt to put that right, as such I feel answerable to myself . I am far from perfect, but when I talk about Justice For 96 strangers I went to a football match with some years ago – I mean that.
My brother said he had not seen me cry since I was 8 years old, I suppose I was just that kind of kid ,stronger than most – I would make up for it that day and subsequently over the next year with images of Hillsborough seemingly on a constant rewind in my head and on my television screen. I would never go back to Hillsborough after that day, and I believe I never will.
I don’t require a sick-note from society – I am not a victim of Hillsborough, I just happen to be someone amongst thousands of others that has a story to regale about that day – And I have also become tired at keeping that story to myself, and I refuse to feel guilty that my emotions or thoughts do not matter.
There are defining moments in all our lives, where uncontrollable instants will rocket you in a direction you were otherwise never to live through, some would call it fate possibly a destiny. I changed after that day, at times not for the better, I would find perspective through its very experience. Others will constantly promote a “Move On” mentality, usually those who believe they have the an understanding of Hillsborough having seen it on their TV screens over a constant of years, as repeated our shouts for Justice have gathered apace. They remain unaware that many of us did & have moved on, and that new journey took us fleet-footed toward justice and the truth, unbeknown this would not be as swift as anticipated.
I still question whether indeed we have had Justice, after all these years I have a distrust of a system which still seems intent on perpetuating its own agenda – Clearly the example in the canonising of Thatcher this last week, and how her many friends within the system have attempted to whitewash her role in the initial cover-up, and the subsequent years of lies coupled with deception on a grand scale.
We certainly are still to have TRUTH – the whole truth that is, and not this distortion of the guilty that still goes on, the protectionism of the few top brass lacking in integrity whilst intent on criminality, the full stop that has been placed on their crimes just before the point where they should be in a courtroom charged with manslaughter & fraud.
The 15th April should not however be about my rage – More so about remembering and honouring the 96 and those affected by their deaths.
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