WAKING up on the first morning after the truth has finally been recognised, it would be easy to talk about the front pages of today’s editions of The Times and The S*n. It would be easy to talk about their final parting shot at the 96. But please don’t. Not today. Today doesn’t belong to them, writes CHARLIE CHRISTIAN.
Talk about something else. Talk about the 96. The 96 men, women and children who went the game and never came home. Whether you’ve been to the match once in your life or you go every week, just think about the things that cross your mind before you make your way to your seat to cheer on the Reds. Will we win? Will we lose? Will I make it out of the stadium alive?
That last question doesn’t cross our minds, does it? It doesn’t cross our minds because it doesn’t have to. We go the match to support our team, to sing songs and to share moments with friends and family. That’s all it is. That’s all it’ll ever be. Going the match shouldn’t be a death sentence but for 96 people, that’s exactly what it was. Talk about that.
Talk about what you’d do if you’d lost someone close to you that day. Your brother, maybe. Your uncle. Your daughter. Talk about how you’d cope with it. Where would you even start? When I look at everything the families of those who were lost that day have done for the past 27 years, I’m awestruck by their dignity. By their resolve. Could you do it? Could you hold it together? I’ve wondered that myself on many occasions. When the whole establishment comes together to hide the truth, and keep it hidden, how difficult would you find it to keep on fighting for justice?
Well, people did. Talk about that.
Talk about sitting in a newsroom on a Monday evening. Sipping a cup of coffee, perhaps. Talk about what sort of human being sits there in a newsroom, sipping a cup of coffee, and thinks about which combination of words would be best to smear 96 dead football fans and their families. Talk about how someone genuinely sat there and chose between “The Truth” and “You Scum” as his headline for the next day’s front page. It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? But we know that someone did that. Talk about that.
Talk about the images and the footage from that fateful day. It’s hard to talk about and even harder to look at, I know. But still. Do it. Imagine you were there, as a policeman, your sole job being to protect those who were there that day. If you saw people in that situation, in such clear panic and distress, wouldn’t your initial reaction be to help? As a human being, with your own friends and family, would you not just want to make the suffering stop there and then?
We know that wasn’t the case at Hillsborough. Talk about that.
Talk about the cover-up. Talk about how the police, the politicians and the press — all lined up to swat the truth away as if it were a troublesome fly. These are the people we rely on to protect us. To represent us. To inform us. Yet they shied away from their responsibilities — they turned their backs on their duties.
Talk about how deep the conspiracy ran. And make no mistake, this was a conspiracy — they were all at it, on both sides. There is no one party, no single institution which should shoulder blame for what happened at Hillsborough and what has happened in the subsequent decades, because the blame can be spread so far and so wide. It wasn’t just a few bad apples trying to save their own rancid skins. It was the whole damn barrel that was rotten.
Talk about what that says about human nature. Whenever I think about it, I simply can’t get my head around it. How can people be so self-serving? How can they tell such shameless lies? How can they sleep at night, knowing what they’ve done, fully aware of the misery and heartache they’ve caused? It’s a pretty depressing picture, isn’t it?
But then, no. It shouldn’t depress us any more. Because they lost.
Their lies and their smears and their attempts to block the truth have been for nothing in the end. The truth is out there now, in black and white for the whole world to see for the rest of time.
The truth is out there because of those who campaigned so hard and for so long. It’s out there because of their unity; out there because they wouldn’t let the truth become a casualty of someone else’s games. It’s out there because of their belief and their sense of duty to those who were lost. The truth is out there because of the scale of their sheer, undying love.
Talk about what that says about human nature. It makes you feel a bit better, doesn’t it?
Finally, talk about why Hillsborough matters. It matters even if you’re not even a Liverpool fan. It matters even if you’re not even a football fan or a sports fan of any kind.
Hillsborough matters because it’s a reminder that injustice isn’t just something that happens to other people in some place else. Injustice can hit anyone. If you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, with the wrong people standing to lose, Hillsborough teaches us that it could just as easily be you left fighting tooth and nail for the truth, for justice.
It’s a scary thought, isn’t it? Talk about that.
As we remember what happened at Hillsborough, we should not just use it as an act of honour for those who were lost or as an act of defiance against those who tried so hard to cover it up. That would be a bit too simple, I think.
To remember Hillsborough is to be aware that we, as human beings, are never all that far away from horror and heartache if only the chips fall a certain way; all of us, everywhere, all of the time.
- Hillsborough: Justice Must Be Followed By Accountability
- Hillsborough And Liverpool: The Generation Gap