Liverpool fans bowed their heads yesterday as Britain mourned on the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, when 96 fans were crushed to death at an FA Cup semi-final.
Families of the victims gathered for a memorial service at Liverpool’s Anfield ground to remember victims of the tragedy at the match between their club and Nottingham Forest.
“People will never forget that day; it’s etched on our memories,” British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told Liverpool FC’s television channel, paying tribute to those who died.
The city of Liverpool was due to come to a standstill to remember the victims of the disaster, caused by massive overcrowding in terraces behind the goal at the Hillsborough ground in the northern industrial city of Sheffield.
The bells of its two cathedrals were to ring out to mark the exact time when the match was abandoned, at 3:06pm, as the full scale of the horror became clear.
Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard, whose 10-year-old cousin Jon-Paul Gilhooley was the youngest victim of the tragedy, spoke of his feelings this week.
“Time has gone by, but the scars will never ever be healed and the fans will never ever forget. So you can always rely on our supporters to be there for you when you need them,” Gerrard said.
In the immediate aftermath of the Hillsborough tragedy, Lord Justice Taylor was commissioned to conduct an inquiry that would have a far-reaching impact on the game.
Taylor was deeply critical of the police response at Hillsborough, but his most significant recommendations were the removal of perimeter fencing and the creation of all-seater stadia.
Brown attacked press reports at the time blaming Liverpool fans for the tragedy. Such was the revulsion of Liverpool supporters at some of the reports that they organized a boycott of the Sun tabloid.
“It was wrong for people to blame, as some did, Liverpool fans on that day,” he said, adding: “That’s probably what matters most — that people understood that the behavior of Liverpool fans in helping each other was magnificent.”
“Let’s never forget the fans who cruelly lost their lives on a day when we know the people of Liverpool were trying to help each other,” he added.