When someone asks ‘how do you feel?, it is a very difficult question to answer when you don’t have a clue. You know how you probably ‘should’ feel, you’ve felt a variety of feelings, often conflicting ones at the same time. But nothing you could hope to understand much less articulate comes to mind. So the response has to be ‘I’m not really sure’.
It might just be me. I hate being called a Hillsborough ‘survivor’ nearly as much as being called lucky. I wasn’t lucky; 96 plus the often overlooked injured and suicides were unlucky. Tragically unlucky. The fact I was plucked out of the central pen to the stand above has always made me feel like a fraud. A guilty fraud. The few times I’ve let it known I was at Hillsborough, I recoil from the gasps and inevitable (but well meaning) comments.
It’s just I never dealt properly with Hillsborough. Too ‘stiff upper lip’ for counselling. Too proud to show emotion. Too many years of burying and bottling emotions to try and stop that little voice that says ‘were you partly to blame?.
Being there meant you always knew the truth. It was accepted people were still alive beyond 3.15 in my mind as I saw them, and with that was a kind of assumption everyone else knew too. What the momentous day of Wednesday 12th September showed was just how many people, outside of Liverpool, sort of believed ‘the official line.
23 years of me shamefully avoiding all things Hillsborough, including services, memorials and documentaries as I couldn’t really deal with it was probably not a smart thing to do. An ill advised internal safety mechanism.
The ‘are you to blame’ voice: I’d better explain. I know I did nothing wrong. I hadn’t drunk any alcohol, but I was later than I should have been due to roadworks. I wasn’t unruly. I just wanted to see a semi final. Funny though how constant insinuation, constant misreporting and constant lies start to play on your mind. I remember the exit gate being opened and gleefully going in (I never showed my ticket to anybody) thinking ‘great, I’m not going to miss any of the game’. Cue the endless internal conversation post that day:-
Brain: ‘you were a contributing factor to the crush’
Logical Mind: ‘I hadn’t got a clue what I was walking into’
Brain: ‘that’s not the point. You were part of that mass that overcrowded the pen’
Logical Mind: ‘as an individual I don’t think it made any difference’
Brain: ‘everyone could say that’
Repeat ad nauseum.
Hillsborough has caused me emotional damage. But it’s nothing and laughable to what many have suffered.
When the truth came out I didn’t feel ecstatic. I was too ashamed to feel selfish relief that officially I wasn’t to blame. I’d love to feel burning anger to the people that created and perpetuated the lies. I felt happy for the families that have worked so hard. I felt cynical to the apologies from people who didn’t want this inquiry, and probably weren’t happy the e-petition hit 100,000 votes. But the over riding feeling is one of numbness.
Maybe there’s a 23 year emotional volcano that’s going to explode when the depths of the disgraceful behaviour sink in. When I think about how the ground had no safety certificate. When I fully comprehend many lives could have been saved. When the realisation hits people were gambling with my life, herding me into a pen and ignoring the injuries and warnings from previous years. But most of all, when I let myself think properly about how to save their sorry backsides people lied, altered documents, smeared us all and compounded everyone’s suffering – I think at that point I’ll finally be able to tell you how I really feel. I’m kind of scared of that day, even though I need it.