The desire for justice in the face of others’ wrongdoing is intense. Having recently sued an ex-landlord in LA – and won – I know. It takes it out of you, but being in the right and, most importantly, being seen to be in the right, is worth everything, in the end.
My own struggle is but a grain of sand alongside the families of the Hillsborough victims; it is not even worthy to be in the same sentence, and I mention it only because I know how all consuming my own fights for justice have always been and cannot begin to imagine what these poor people have been through in their 23 year fight to get to the truth.
Not only did they lose their loved ones; they had to suffer the indignity of being told that the dead were to blame for the tragic events of that day.
The evidence that has come to light is another heartbreak: not just the lies and deceit, but the knowledge that 41 of the victims might have been saved. Everyone who lost a relative or friend that day will spend the rest of their lives asking: Was he/she one of that 41?
Injustice upon injustice upon injustice.
You can only weep.
I have been remembering another football stadium tragedy four years before Hillsboorugh in May 1985: the fire at Bradford City, that claimed the lives of 56 fans and injured well over 200. I arrived home from shopping in Bristol, where my parents were living. I was working in London and had gone home for a weekend visit. I walked into the living room to find my father crying in his usual armchair. My brother and I are sport crazy, but Dad never watched it; nevertheless, he was visibly stunned as he watched the disaster unfold on the screen.
My father who, died in 1990, was a desperately sensitive man. He could not talk to me for five minutes without crying, as if he never got over the fact that I learned to speak, let alone grew up. I would always be his little girl. We were a family that cried at everything, including Lassie when we sat down to watch it after dinner on Sunday afternoons. Dad cried every time he mentioned his parents, long dead, and he had never felt able to visit their graves.
After the Bradford fire, new safety standards were put in place at football grounds, including the banning of new wooden grandstands. Yet what we have heard this week was that not only was Hillsborough unsafe, the authorities had known it to be unsafe for some time.
Also after Bradford, many police officers received commendations, bravery awards and medals; yet at the heart of the Hillsborough inquiry is the accusation that the police falsified information, following complaints about their handling of the tragedy.
What the hell happened? Four years apart, the tragedies could not be more different (although the subsequent Popplewell inquiry at Bradford found that the club had been warned about the accumulation of rubbish – that fuelled the fire - under the stand).
Twenty-three years is a long time to wait for justice – and for the Hillsborough families it’s far from over, with the likelihood of those who falsified evidence or made crucial, devastatingly bad judgments, being prosecuted. Somebody, surely, has to be accountable.
It is a cliché that nothing can bring back the 96 who perished on that day; but the living hell and the fight for truth by the brave people who have fought tirelessly on their behalf must bring about a small measure of peace.
Truth will out, they say.
It’s just damned disgraceful that sometimes it has to take so sodding long.