Thousands of fans united with players and officials of Liverpool Football Club at Anfield to pay their respects on the 22nd anniversary of the Hillsborough Stadium disaster.
The service, always an emotional occasion, marks one of darkest and most tragic days in the city's history. 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death as crowds of people were crammed into the Leppings Lane End of the ground during an FA Cup Semi-Final against Nottingham Forest on 15th April, 1989.
Nobody has ever been held fully responsible for the tragedy, despite various legal proceedings, but every year since the disaster a memorial service has been held to remember those who died on that fateful day.
Hillsborough Justice Campaign Chairman, Kenny Derbyshire, told JMU Journalism: “It makes you feel proud that people still care, all over the world and in this city. People should be educated so that this never happens again.”
This year’s service, which was led by All Saints Roman Catholic Church on behalf of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, was also marked by an announcement by former Lord Mayor of Liverpool, and Walton's MP, Steve Rotheram.
Rotheram told the congregation that an early day motion is to be tabled in the House of Commons to request that manager and Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish, along with his wife Marina, be awarded a knighthood for the care and compassion they showed to the grieving familes after Hillsborough.
In a speech, Rotheram said: “We are tabling this motion
so that, on all our behalf, the King of the Kop can become
Sir Kenny Dalglish.”
He also denounced calls for 'safe standing' areas to
return to football stadiums, and praised the "unshakable
bond" that holds the city together, saying: “Whether red or
blue, we are Scousers all."
A reading was also made by famous Liverpudlian
scriptwriter Jimmy McGovern. McGovern, who was the
creative force behind a 1996 TV dramatisation of the
tragedy, praised the families of the victims for their
"enduring spirit" in the face of adversity and legal
inquiries that have yielded no result so far.
In keeping with tradition, a minute’s silence was held
as a mark of respect to the victims at 3.06pm, while the
names of all 96 who died were also recited between
choruses of the hymn, ‘Abide With Me’.
The congregation received a tearful and impassioned speech from the chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, Margaret Aspinall, who reiterated the comments of Rotheram, asserting that "standing should never be allowed at football grounds again".
Mrs Aspinall also appealed to the recently-formed Hillsborough Independent Panel to finally deliver justice to the families of the victims. She said: “For 22 years we’ve been given crumbs of comfort; the crumbs don’t fill us, so I say to the panel, don’t offer us crumbs, give us the whole loaf.”
The panel, led by the Bishop of Liverpool, James Jones, is currently examining previously unseen documents relating to the tragedy and will report its findings in 2012.
Former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez also returned to Anfield to pay his respects. The Spaniard was sacked as manager in June last year but showed his continued affinity with the club and its fans by returning to the stadium, and he was moved to tears by the crowd’s reaction to his appearance when Mrs Aspinall thanked him for coming.
The service was fittingly concluded with a rousing chorus of Liverpool’s famous anthem, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, which served as a perfect symbol of the fans’ solidarity and togetherness in the face of the greatest adversity.
By Nicholas McGee & Joel Richards at Anfield
More Hillsborough stories
Memorial service in pictures
Fans called for justice throughout, while former boss Rafa Benitez shed tears as the crowd greeted him
HILLSBOROUGH MEMORIAL SERVICE 2011
Pics: Vegard Grott
Pictures by Vegard Grott