One if the saddest days of my life occurred April 15th 1989. An FA cup semi final game between Liverpool and Nottingham should’ve been an occasion to celebrate as I donned my red Liverpool shirt scarf and hat that day in Nottingham.
The sun shone beautifully through my moms’ living room window as I eagerly set up the radio to get full commentary of the game. The whole week was nothing but talk about it — who will Kenny Dalglish pick for his Liverpool team? I was thinking this as I perused the newspapers that week.
My adrenaline was always high in the lead up to games but this was special. Liverpool have the opportunity to clinch an FA cup final place if they can beat Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest and go on to clinch a league and cup double in May.
The three o’clock kick off had finally arrived as Liverpool had there first chance to score. Suddenly a Liverpool supporter ran onto the pitch and then another. What was happening ? Was there crowd trouble ?
The section behind Bruce Grobellar (Liverpool goal keeper) had become over crowded to the point where supporters were starting to get crushed.
Bruce asked the police officer next to the pen, to “get the gate open” and was ignored until the officer was told by him in no uncertain terms to open it. By then it was too late as casualties began to mount up and advertising boards were used as stretchers until the paramedics arrived.
As the chaos mounted, both sets of players were ordered to leave the field until order was established. People that had come watch a football game were now perishing before the eyes of the nation. Those who survived the crush were embraced shocked and dazed by the events.
By 3.15 that afternoon 60 people had perished in the crush at the leppings lane end of the ground. No longer was I interested in football as numbness over took me. I just couldn’t speak that evening as I sat with my mother unable to comprehend the events of the afternoon.
Losing my father to a cardiac arrest when I was six was my first taste of bereavement. The shock and numbness was there that day in 1976 as well. Now as an 18 year old going on 19 it was there again only on a far far bigger scale.
The final death toll was 96. Bill Shankly former Liverpool manager once said “football’s a matter of life and death.” No it’s not. Human life is far more important and is a gift that needs to be protected and cherished always.
Losing my mother to cancer in 1994 only brings this message home further that life can never be taken for granted. For the 96 that perished may you all rest in peace and that none of you will ever walk alone.