Twenty years ago today Liverpool was playing Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final soccer match at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium. There was construction work on the main highway from Liverpool to Sheffield and a lot of fans arrived late, just minutes before the game was scheduled to start. There was a big crowd at the turnstiles, and a lot of shoving as people made their way through a narrow tunnel that led to the standing-room pens behind one of the goalposts.
In retrospect, there were a lot of things that could have been done: The game could have been delayed; the fans could have been directed into less-crowded pens; the police could have pulled their heads out of their asses. Instead, there was a perfect storm of crowd hysteria, police stupidity, and bad stadium design. 96 men, women, and children died, some by being stomped on and crushed and some by compressive asphyxiation (they remained standing, but couldn’t breathe). Meanwhile, the soccer game started promptly at 3:00 and went on as the fans were slaughtered; the referees didn’t order the players off the field until 3:06.
In the aftermath, there was the obligatory government inquiry, an inquest that failed to take into account anything that happened after 3:15 that day, and the early retirement (with full pensions) of some of the police. One of Rupert Murdoch's so-called newspapers blamed the victims.
BBC News’ UK Web site has video of some survivors today; I thought Damian Kavanagh's segment was particularly moving. And most of the memorials feature an old Rodgers and Hammerstein song from the Broadway musical “Carousel,” which for some reason has been associated with Liverpool F.C. since the early 1960s.
Thanks for reading today’s News of the Dead blog post, and may God bless.