LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND (AP) - Liverpool players past and present wept Wednesday alongside survivors marking the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough stadium soccer disaster.
Church bells tolled as the names of the 96 Liverpool fans who died in the crush at the 1989 FA Cup semifinal were read before about 28,000 fans attending the annual memorial service at Anfield.
A two-minute silence was held across the city at 3:06 p.m. _ when Liverpool’s match with Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday’s stadium was abandoned.
“(Hillsborough) broke the heart but not the spirit of our community,” the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt. Rev. James Jones, said inside Anfield. “For many here today it seems still like yesterday. Those we lost are always in our minds.”
Twenty years ago, police opened a gate to alleviate crowding outside the Sheffield stadium, allowing fans to surge into an area already packed with standing fans. The influx crushed 94 fans to death inside the stadium; two more died later.
In the days after the country’s worst sports disaster, Anfield became a shrine for grieving fans to lay flowers, scarves and flags on the field. It is a scene that has played out inside the stadium every year since and Wednesday was no different.
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez and his players sat with fans in the 72 rows of the Kop, a steep one-deck end resembling a hill. The stadium was rebuilt to eliminate standing room in keeping with the post-Hillsborough reforms. They were joined by Everton manager David Moyes as the port city of Liverpool united in a renewed outpouring of grief.
After the club’s stirring anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was sung by a choir, Kenny Dalglish, who was manager on April 15, 1989, gave the first reading at the service.
Government minister Andy Burnham was heckled while reading a message from Prime Minister Gordon Brown _ reflecting the anger that no one has been held accountable for the disaster. Police mismanagement was strongly blamed in the official report. Cries of “Justice for the 96” echoed around the ground.
“Hillsborough has left many deep wounds that will never heal,” Burnham said. “It’s horror is not diminished by the passage of time.”
Later Burnham acknowledged there is a “strong sense of justice not done,” adding that the victims’ families have been “wronged.” But he ruled out calls for a new inquiry, instead appealing for full disclosure of any documents that didn’t come to light.
“We are resolved as ever to ensure that the truth will defeat the lies and propaganda that surround Hillsborough,” said Trevor Hicks, president of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, who lost two teenage daughters in the crush.
Nottingham marked Forest’s involvement in the tragedy with a two-minute silence in the city’s Old Market Square. Sheffield Wednesday opened the Leppings Lane end of its stadium, where the disaster happened.
Wednesday’s anniversary came a day after Liverpool played Chelsea to a thrilling 4-4 draw in a Champions League quarterfinal in London, only to lose 7-5 on total goals after two legs.