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Emotional Anfield marks Hillsborough's 25th anniversary
A minute's silence was impeccably honoured at Anfield at 3.06pm to mark the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster that claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool supporters during an FA Cup semi-final in 1989.
A congregation of 26,000 stood in silence at the moment, 25 years ago, that the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest was abandoned.
All members of the current Liverpool squad and previous players and managers were in attendance, including Kenny Dalglish, the Liverpool manager on the day of the match.
Thousands of football scarves from clubs around the world were laid out in the centre circle of the Anfield pitch, spelling out "96" in response to letters from Dalglish to every league club in the country for their contribution to the remembrance campaign.
The service carried added significance this year given the launch of the new inquest two weeks ago to determine how 96 men, women and children went to a football match and never came home.
The crowd stood to sing Abide With Me shortly before 3pm, after which a roll call of the 96 victims was read aloud.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers and Everton coach Roberto Martinez read passages from the Bible during the ceremony before adding their own tributes to the victims and their families.
"How can anyone die watching the game they love?" Martinez said. "That isn't right, that isn't fair. What happened after wasn't right or fair. To fight for the name of the people you have lost is appalling."
Martinez also revealed that Everton will unveil a memorial to the Hillsborough victims at Goodison Park later this year.
"The way you fight for justice is incredible. Everton are with you, I don't need to tell you - you know that," he added. "Everton remembers, we always will."
Brendan Rodgers led an ovation for Dalglish, his predecessor as Liverpool manager, before paying tribute to the club, who are top of the Premier League and on course for their first league title in 24 years.
"Every day I'm inspired when I come to work," Rodgers said. "You don't struggle for inspiration when you're Liverpool FC manager. But without doubt the single biggest source of inspiration when I arrive, I see the memorial of the 96 names who were lost that day. That is the source of true inspiration."
Labour politician, Liverpool native and Evertonian Andy Burnham, who was booed and heckled on his appearance at the 20th anniversary memorial, was met with a far warmer reception after adding his voice to calls for a new investigation to be opened while minister for culture, media and sport.
"You helped me find the political courage to do something," Burnham said. "Just as I did five years ago, I have asked people what I should say today. My mum says to wish you all the best for the league and to say how fitting it would be for you to win it this year in all these years.
"How can it be that an entire city was crying for justice for so long and no-one was listening?" he asked. "This last 25 years are a great vindication of your club, my club and our city.
"Liverpool stands before the country in a new light. In time, your fight will make our country better - a place where power and respect are more evenly spread."
Trevor Hicks, the president of the Hillsborough Family Support Group who lost his two daughters Sarah (then 19) and Victoria (15), also spoke to the crowd before chairwoman Margaret Aspinall took to the lectern.
"There is a story, which for 25 years, we have been trying to find the truth to," Aspinall said. "We have all been fighting for it, so I don't need to say it. I find it ironic that we have been told that we are not allowed to say things that that might prejudice the case. If that had happened 25 years ago we might not be in this place.
"We know it it is not going to be easy. There are still 12 months to go, but I hope we can find peace and - most importantly - have something to celebrate."
The ceremony ended with an emotional rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone, led by Gerry Marsden, as red balloons were released into the Liverpool sky.