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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 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.


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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  1. Mark Coleman

    September 12, 2012 at 3:36 am

    I was at the southern lge match(beazer homes lge in those days)between Bury Town and Tonbridge. Action packed fast paced first half but it was’nt until just before halftime when the guy on the tannoy announced the latest scores and said there was a tragedy at hillsborough. Everyone who had a transistor radio got it out and soon the entire ground knew what was going on although only a handful of deaths were reported at that stage. The 2nd half was the most surreal 45 mins i ever known. I was 14 at the time and when a goal was scorednobody cheered or celebrated. Players from both teams regularly came to the touchline to ask fans for updates. This was the ssddest day in football and remember it was less than 4 years after bradford and heysel. JFT96

  2. The Gaffer

    April 15, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    I agree with Tim. Look out for an article from me tomorrow that addresses my concerns about the misinformation that Cohen is spreading across the United States.

    The Gaffer

  3. Tim

    April 15, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    “Stephen Cohen’s accounts of Hillsborough” there are more accurate accounts of the days events than his, next you will be saying to read the S*n for there accounts of Hillsborough
    you are an idiot and quite frankly show some respect to the people (and there friends and family) that died that day.

  4. Are you joking?

    April 15, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Kartik has shown up here to defend his piece where he blames Heysel on the Italians and implies a conspiracy to take English teams out of Europe to help Italian teams. His opinions on the subject should not be taken seriously.

    He may have credibility on subjects related to US Soccer, but kartik has shown on this subject his English bias has clouded his view of actual events.

    Listen to Stephen Cohen’s accounts of Hillsborough on WSD before the eulogies for Liverpool continue, please.

  5. Tim

    April 15, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    I was listening to the game on the radio and then Grandstand switched to Hillsborough (back then FA Cup Semi’s were not shown on TV in England), was stunned by what I saw one image I’ve never forgot was seeing the advertising boards used as stretchers.

    96 Angels YNWA.

  6. Andy Wilson

    April 15, 2009 at 11:19 am

    I remember that day as though it was yesterday. I was in Banbury, Oxfordshire for a Southern League game between Banbury United & my team, Grantham Town.

    At around 3.10pm a friend listening to the radio said that there had been some crowd trouble at the Liverpool/Forest semi-final and that the game had been abandoned. We thought no more of it and carried on watching our match. At half-time we went for a beer in the social club and watched the awful scenes from Hillsborough on TV. I will always remember the silence in the room that afternoon as people tried to take in just what was happening.

    These were people like us, people that had gone to a football match that sunny day in April 1989. Ordinary working class people united in our love of the beautiful game.

    The only difference is that we came home that day.

    The 96 should, and will be remembered not just by Liverpool fans, but by football fans worldwide.

  7. fsquid

    April 15, 2009 at 8:23 am

    My thoughts go out to the 96 who died that day. The ever going debate on the chain events can wait for another day.

  8. Davie Wilson

    April 15, 2009 at 8:05 am

    I was only 14 and was at the Scottish Cup semi final between Rangers and St Johnstone. The match was played at parkhead as Hampden was being refurbished at the time.

    I remember standing at the back of the terracing and could hear the police talking to each other saying there was some sort of riot going on at Hillsborough (oblivious to the actual goings on).

    The match ended 0-0.

    It wasnt until we got home from the match we found out exactly what happened.

    Awful stuff.

  9. eplnfl

    April 15, 2009 at 7:51 am


    Yes the US media did play up the poor view that most American’s had of English football at that time. Stories on much of the outrageous behavior of English fans were very common around that time. That is not to say they were not true but covered by the US media that otherwise would not have bothered with a story about soccer/football at all. The impression made lasts in many places till this day. When England played here in Chicago in 2005 there was still some carry over on that with a rather large article about English fans with an under current of your may want to watch out for them.

    At the end of the month of April of 1989 I had my honeymoon in Europe and our first stop was London. I found just 2 weeks after the event the English media to be rather quiet on the subject. There was an international game taking place then as I recall and the coverage was about security measures and the crowd but all low key.

  10. Kartik

    April 15, 2009 at 7:04 am

    As I talk about today on MLS Talk the coverage of the disaster in the US press was largely insulting and shameful. They did cover it, but they used it as another reason to bash football and bash England, which was totally out of line. Even in an era of better journalism in general, many Americans were insular, xenophobic and ignorant about anything not in Hollywood movies. (That’s a topic for another day on MLS Talk.)

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