Anfield pays tribute to Hillsborough 96
By Football News
For 24 years Liverpool have been commemorating the 96 fans who died watching their team at an FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough.
But on Monday, for the first time, the mass of fans who flock to the club's famous Kop end on an annual basis arrived with hope in their hearts.
Hope that a campaign to bring justice for the 96 was finally coming to a conclusion, with those they feel responsible for the disaster being brought to order.
And also a sense of satisfaction that an independent panel report had swept away the lies that claimed Liverpool supporters had caused the tragedy.
It was a myth that has hung over the service for far too long and meant the palpable grief was always multiplied by anger.
After 24 years of crying, the tears still flow but that anger is slowly starting to subside.
Margaret Aspinall, chairman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group and mother of James, who died on that heart-breaking day, delivered the most powerful speech of the afternoon.
She said: "After 24 years the truth is finally out and the record has finally been put straight.
"It has taken 8,551 dark days and a report to expose what we have known from day one – the fans were not to blame."
The city of Liverpool had already marked the occasion before Liverpool threw open the Anfield doors to all-comers wishing to pay their respects.
A grand-father clock, its hands stopped at 3.06 to mark the time the game was abandoned, was undraped at Liverpool Town Hall and a seven-feet high bronze drum-shaped monument with the names of the lost inscribed in it was unveiled at St George's Hall.
But it is the service at Anfield that is always the focus of any memorial to the 96.
It is on the Kop, Liverpool's most famous of terraces, where the families of those who died and the folk of a city unite in sorrow.
Just as before every home game, many stopped at the memorial on the Anfield Road on their way in. Some with a single rose in hand, some in Everton shirts, many with pushchairs and prams.
And just as before every match, those who studied the names struggled to comprehend the youthful ages of so many of those who died at Hillsborough.
The 96 who went to watch a football game but never came home.
Liverpool's manager back then, Kenny Dalglish, who carried such a heavy burden at the time in comforting the families of those who had lost loved ones, was in attendance.
As were some of his players on that day, such as Alan Hansen and Ian Rush. They were clapped to their seats as loudly as the families who filled the front rows alongside them.
It was left to Mrs Aspinall to close the ceremony. She demanded the culpable face justice once again, before the Liverpool anthem You'll Never Walk Alone provided a poignant finale.
Never has a song been so relevant.