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Survivors’ Accounts: Life Post-Hillsborough through Their Eyes

The Athletic has chosen to republish an article on the 35th anniversary of Hillsborough that was originally released two years ago, highlighting the tragedy of that day and its lasting impact on survivors.

Upon returning to Halifax on the night of April 15, 1989, Martin Roberts experienced such distress that he wet his bed while struggling to sleep. The following morning, he remained silent about the harrowing events he witnessed in Sheffield, where 97 supporters tragically lost their lives in a steel pen he narrowly escaped from.

Martin spent hours aimlessly wandering in the garden on Sunday, attempting to comprehend the incomprehensible. By Tuesday morning, he resumed work at Barclays bank. His boss’s inquiry about his well-being seemed trivial, given the gravity of the situation. Martin grappled with the fear of being judged based on the negative portrayals of fans like himself in the media.

The deepest wounds Martin carried from Hillsborough were not physical but psychological. His father, with traditional values, struggled to grasp the invisible anguish plaguing his son. Unlike visible injuries, Martin’s emotional pain went unnoticed, leading him to bury himself in work and the facade of normalcy. Despite marrying and becoming a father, the shadow of Hillsborough loomed over his life, festering in his mind and soul.

The anniversaries, inquiries, and inquests surrounding Hillsborough only intensified Martin’s inner turmoil. This internal battle intensified as personal tragedies struck his family, with his wife’s tumor diagnosis, his father’s cancer, and his mother’s passing. The weight of grief and anxiety compounded by the haunting memories of Hillsborough pushed Martin to the brink.

Seeking solace in work but struggling to cope, Martin’s facade crumbled under the weight of post-traumatic stress disorder. Intensive therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy and EMDR, forced him to confront suppressed memories and vividly relive the horrors of Hillsborough. The overwhelming trauma led him to question his roles as a husband and father, contemplating drastic measures to escape the torment.

In a moment of profound despair, Martin made a fateful decision to end his suffering. As he prepared to leave his home in the early hours, his wife’s intervention halted his tragic resolve, marking a pivotal moment where he acknowledged his need for help.

The narratives of survivors like Martin shed light on the enduring scars of Hillsborough, revealing a profound impact that extends far beyond physical injuries. The emotional toll, invisible yet deeply profound, continues to shape the lives of those who witnessed the tragedy firsthand.