Liverpool will come to a standstill today to mark 25 years since the Hillsborough disaster claimed 96 lives.
As the city remembers in silence, church bells will toll 96 times at 3.06pm, the exact time a quarter of a century ago that Liverpool FC’s fateful FA Cup match was abandoned as the tragedy unfolded.
The silence will be observed at Anfield, where loved ones of victims will join players, staff and senior representatives of the club among 24,000 people attending the annual memorial service.
Brendan Rodgers, the current manager, will give a reading at the service as well as Roberto Martinez, manager of neighbours and city rivals Everton.
Thousands of football scarves will be laid out on the pitch in the shape of “96”, donated from fans and clubs across the UK and beyond after an appeal from Liverpool FC for scarves to show a symbol of unity across fan rivalries.
Across the city, public transport will be halted at 3.06pm, the Mersey Ferry will blow its funnels, and barriers at both Mersey Tunnels will be lowered, as the bells ring out at the Anglican Cathedral, Liverpool Parish Church, the town hall and other civic buildings and churches.
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “This year marks a pivotal moment in the history of the Hillsborough tragedy and the families’ long fight for justice.
“Not only is it the 25th anniversary of the tragedy but we also have the start of fresh inquests into how the 96 lost their lives.
“We will never forget those who died at Hillsborough, and this is a day for us to unite as a city and remember each one, and also their families and friends left behind.
“I urge everyone in Liverpool, and across the region, to observe the minute’s silence, stand shoulder to shoulder and remember the 96 fans that went to a football match and never returned home.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with their loved ones today.”
At Lime Street, the city’s main railway station, a huge screen will display a photo of each of those who lost their lives on April 15 1989 in the crush on the Leppings Lane terraces at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough ground as the cup semi-final versus Nottingham Forest got under way.
Some of those present at today’s memorial are witnesses in the new inquest into Britain’s worst sporting disaster, which began last month and resumes next week.
The original accidental deaths verdicts in 1991 were quashed in the High Court in 2012 after a long campaign by the fans’ families.
The memorial at Anfield is scheduled to start at 2.45pm.
Julie Fallon lost her 23-year-old brother, Colin Sefton, from Skelmsersdale, in the disaster.
Mrs Fallon said her brother was just an “ordinary young man” whose life had only just begun.
She told BBC Breakfast: “It just felt like somebody had mapped out a book, described the characters and set the scene” but it was then filled with “blank pages”.
Mrs Fallon said ahead of today’s memorial: “I think the fact that people are so, and always have been - the city of Liverpool and Anfield - have been incredibly supportive, but I suppose in those quiet moments at the memorial, even though you are surrounded by thousands of people, who are all giving you their very best wishes, I think each family then becomes quite insular for those moments, and just remembers what it means for them.”
Chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, Margaret Aspinall, whose son James, 18, died in the tragedy, told ITV’s Daybreak: “All of them, fans and survivors, that have gone through so much alongside us, I’ll be praying for them as well, that in the end they’ll all have peace because that’s all we’ve ever wanted in the end, just peace. You can’t have peace till you get truth.”
A live screening of the service will also be shown at Everton’s Goodison Park stadium.