Language Paper 2 – Surviving Hillsborough, 1989

On April 15th, 1989, 96 Liverpool football fans were crushed to death at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield when the police let in too many fans to one section of the ground.

Here, a survivor of the tragedy talks of how he has struggled to come to terms with what he experienced.

3rd DECEMBER. SEVEN MONTHS ON.

_86094249_leppingsAt the age of twenty I have experienced the Hillsborough Disaster. In one day my whole life was changed. I stayed in Liverpool the week following the disaster and went to Anfield the following Saturday. On the bus going to Anfield a bus conductor got on; for some reason I felt like the world was going to end. I started shaking, my heart was pounding and I had strong shooting pains in my arms and legs, I didn’t know what was happening to me. Then I realised I could hear voices on the conductor’s ‘walkie talkie,’ just like the voices on the policemen’s ‘walkie talkies’ on the Saturday before when supporters were dying. This was the first panic attack I’d ever had in my life. I now get them regularly. I returned to London the next day and suffered two days of constant nightmares; every time I woke up I saw people’s crushed faces and bodies around my bedroom. Unlike other nightmares when I woke up, the feelings didn’t leave me because I couldn’t tell myself that the nightmare wasn’t true. I still get these nightmares. I left my course in London and felt like I was a total failure.

I couldn’t go to the Vernon Sangster Centre where the social workers were situated, as the thought of talking about what I’d seen made me feel sick. In July my mother drove me to the Vernon Sangster but I was too frightened to get out of the car.  A social worker came out to the car to talk to me; we hardly spoke about Hillsborough. He referred me to a social worker on the newly appointed Hillsborough team, who I then saw weekly and still do. With the help and support from my social worker I started Liverpool Polytechnic in October; I now study psychology. I felt unable to return to studying biology or any subject involving the human body; the person alive behind the body matters so much to me now, Academically I enjoy the course, although, sometimes it can be very difficult to concentrate. However, I am unable to attend seminars, as involvement in groups, (or crowds), or performing a task in front of a group (or crowd), provokes very strong panic attacks. I hope with time and support I can overcome this fear.

I still suffer bouts of depression and have lost a lot of my self-confidence; before Hillsborough I felt quite self-confident. When I am able to enjoy something, it is normally only a distraction from Hillsborough for a few minutes or hours; it is difficult to do something simple like watch a film or the new without something bringing a flashback of Hillsborough. Liverpool memorial for Hillsborough victims Anfield wreaths and flowers

I returned to Hillsborough six months after the disaster. I walked up to the gate I’d passed bodies through and put 3 red roses in it. This was the first time I was able to cry since April 15th. I feel like crying all the time but for some reason I am unable to break down and cry.

One of the few places I’m not frightened of being in a crowd is at Anfield. I still believe the Kop and Liverpool Football Club is the easiest place to fall in love with. I’m most grateful for the support I’ve had from my girlfriend, other survivors, and my social worker. Although I will never be the same person I was before the disaster, I’m determined not to let Hillsborough beat me.

The account I’ve given is a very personal one and although I feel reluctant to share it with many people, as a survivor of the disaster I feel I have a responsibility to tell what really happened that day for the 96 supporters who can’t. To the old man I spoke to and all those who suffered, REST IN PEACE.

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