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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Tuesday, April 15, 2008
    The 96 and the 39, and the silence

    Nineteen years, now, since the carnage at Hillsborough where 96 people died in a crush on the Leppings Lane terrace. The city will fall silent at 3.06 and at that time I'll be walking the road which leads to Anfield and thinking about the one who died that day who I knew and the other friends I have who survived being there, though deeply damaged by the tragedy.

    When Liverpool fans face us Evertonians in a derby match the spirit is quite different from today's, and as they chant "Liiiiiiverpoool .... Liiiiiiverpoool" we drown it out with "Muuuuuurderers ... Muuuuuurderers" as a reminder that there's two stadium disasters associated with their club (and our city), and that the other one (Heysel, 29 May 1985) can't be blamed on external factors - 39 Italians died in a crush caused by fans retreating from violent attacking Liverpool supporters.

    Silence wears many faces. Today's silence will be one of solemn respect, shared by all in our city moved by the loss of the innocents that sunny Saturday afternoon a generation ago. Our Evertonian chant is distasteful, of course, but it does at least break the silence which has persisted in the Liverpool club and the city as a whole, over Heysel. I don't think that those most affected by Hillsborough will ever be wholly healed as long as their lingering questions about what happened that day go unanswered (ie, official silences remain unbroken); neither will our city be fully grown until we gain the confidence to accept the significance of what our people did in Belgium that night four years earlier, and begin to deal wholly with it.

    Poem: W.H. Auden, Funeral Blues, as inscribed on the monument at the new Heysel stadium which commemorates the 1985 disaster.