London – The policeman was on his knees weeping as he finally gave up his vain attempts to breathe life back into a small boy who had been dragged from the crush at the Leppings Lane end.
Others picked up the frail body from the touchline, laid him gently on the wooden slab of a broken advertising hoarding and bore the lad away on that makeshift stretcher.
They carried him to the gymnasium behind one stand. There, inside the cold tin walls of that temporary morgue, they set him down among the victims of that sun-kissed but death-filled afternoon. Neatly.
If only the organisation of that FA Cup semi-final had been as orderly as the rows of corpses among which the football folk of Liverpool were already searching, in eerie silence, for relatives and friends.
Now, 23 long years later, we know the full extent of the incompetence which doomed 96 fans never to return home alive from a day out at the football.
Now we know how unspeakably the Sheffield authorities tried to conceal their fault for the disaster of April 15, 1989, which is forever known, simply but dreadfully, as Hillsborough. Now we know for certain that the cover-up has been almost as terrible as the tragedy.
We who saw the chaos and panic unfolding behind those death-trap fences, suspected it could be fatal, then hurried down to the pitch to help as best we could, deserved to be told that on Wednesday.
Not as much as the families. Nothing like. But deserved to be told none the less. So did the policeman who tried so desperately to save that boy, if indeed he is still alive.
Not all coppers are bad. The bobbies on the ground were betrayed, also, by the failings of their superiors.
The unsealing of this definitive report, for which the grieving on Merseyside campaigned so long, cites the command and control of the Sheffield constabulary for failing to protect the fans. It blames the emergency services for responding so slowly that they cost as many as 41 victims a chance of survival. It condemns the concealing of the truth.
The documents are as damning as they could be.
They are also as official as they have to be, so they cannot reflect the individual striving, nor the trauma, of that policeman and others like him.
Nor do they trace the trail which led to this catastrophe. The one blazed by English football hooligans through the 1970s and 1980s which led those in charge that day to the assumption that they were witnessing another such riot, a perception which went unchecked and unverified.
Apologies never suffice in the wake of human suffering on such an unnecessary scale. But although none of this had anything to do with David Cameron, I suppose Wednesday’s expressions of regret are the best the Government can do now. And at least, at last, the information has been released.
What is also clear is that a previous Prime Minister was not culpable. When, four years earlier, Liverpool supporters were involved in the crushing deaths of 39 Italian fans at the crumbling Heysel stadium in Brussels on the occasion of a European Cup final, Margaret Thatcher asked me, among others, to report back.
Thereafter Mrs Thatcher, her subsequent Sports Minister Colin (now Lord) Moynihan and I were in the forefront of the campaign to tear down the iron fences, close the standing terraces and bring all-seat grounds into law.
That crusade was at first unpopular with the football masses. The desperate irony is that it took Hillsborough to force the measure through.
Perhaps the only good to come out of the ruins of Leppings Lane is the modern stadiums wherein the fans and families of today watch their teams in safety. Kenny Dalglish, the Liverpool icon who managed the club so inspirationally through that grim time, is among those who find some consolation in that civilising of our national game. He, too, will be gratified by this report. Even though, shocking as it is, it goes only so far as its remit.
It does not call to account the football associations at home and abroad who sanctioned major matches, with their huge crowds, in antiquated and perilous surroundings.
It is, however, the vindication for which the Liverpool community has been crying out down the decades.
Now they are urging a new inquest and criminal prosecutions.
I do not know at which point the people of Liverpool will feel able to move on. But I do hope that day does come.
Not only for them. We who bore witness to Hillsborough — and, yes, Heysel — live with our scarred memories of those harrowing scenes.
Not least, for me, of one small boy who had his breath, his hopes, his dreams and his future crushed out of him when his life had barely begun. – Daily Mail