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Where Were You On April 15, 1989?

shankly gates Where Were You On April 15, 1989?

On today, the 20th anniversary of the most tragic day in English football history, I want to ask you — the readers — where you were on April 15, 1989 and what your memories were from that day. With an audience from different parts of the world, it’ll be interesting to hear your perspective on how you found out about the news about the Hillsborough tragedy and what your thoughts were at that time.

For me, I was 19 years old and living at my parent’s home in West Palm Beach. My cousin, Kevin Jones, and I listened to the Sportworld show that day on the BBC World Service as we did every Saturday on our shortwave radio purchased from Radio Shack. As was customary, the show provided match reports and sports news during the first half of the show, while the second half of the show always featured a live broadcast of a second half of a football match.

The information was sketchy that day although we did hear about there being disturbances at Hillsborough. It was difficult to fathom how terrible the disaster was. Plus it was difficult to hear the shortwave radio signal clearly as was often the case especially during the mid-day.

Remember that this was well before the Internet. Our only source of news from England was either by shortwave radio or by telephone. And in those days, the international long distance rates were approximately $1 per minute, so we didn’t dare call our relatives.

That evening, the Hillsborough stadium disaster was the lead story on the CBS Evening News hosted by Bob Schieffer. The news piece was less than 2.5 minutes long, and included a small section about the history of unruly behavior by spectators at British soccer matches as told by then Liverpool chairman Sir John Smith.

It wasn’t until the day after Hillsborough when my cousin and I opened up the Sunday edition of The Palm Beach Post newspaper that we were able to truly understand the sheer scope of the disaster. Underneath a front page headline of “Crush Kills 93 Britons At Stadium” was a harrowing photograph that still haunts me to this day. It was a closeup of several fans with their faces crushed up against the steel fencing. Most sickening of all was one young man who looked dead from compressive asphyxia, where the torso (and lungs) are crushed resulting in the person being unable to breath. The image in black and white was gruesome.

I can’t imagine how horrific the day must have been for the supporters who experienced the events. Many of my relatives used to live in Liverpool but all of them have deceased except for my Aunt Josie, who I visited in her home near Anfield in 2006. We didn’t discuss Hillsborough that day, but the moment I left her house, I walked up Walton Breck Road and made my first pilgrimage to Anfield where I paid my respects at the Hillsborough Memorial next to the Shankly Gates near the edge of Stanley Park. It was early on a Sunday morning. And in the 15-20 minutes I spent there at that spot, at least four to five separate groups of people stopped by to pay their respects.

What’s important to remember is that there is still much to learn about Hillsborough, to find out what really happened and to bring those people to justice who made critical mistakes that led to 96 people losing their lives. The Times recently sought out police commander David Duckenfield to get his thoughts on the matter, but he refused to speak publicly about Hillsborough. Meanwhile, the BBC recorded a candid interview with the coroner involved after the Hillsborough stadium disaster.

Recently, the hdinfo.com website released a detailed document which explains exactly what happened before, during and after the Hillsborough disaster — which is a must-read.

Lastly, be sure to head over to our sister site, Major League Soccer Talk, for a personal perspective of his memories of the Hillsborough tragedy as written by Kartik Krishnaiyer.

JUSTICE FOR THE 96.

Over the years, the topic of the Hillsborough disaster has been covered in great detail by EPL Talk. Here are a selection of some of the stories and interviews we’ve compiled:


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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
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