More than a thousand people attended a sombre service yesterday to mark the 29th anniversary of the Bradford City fire disaster.
Men, women and children joined together to pay their respects and remember the 56 people who died and the many more who suffered terrible injuries in the tragedy at Valley Parade on May 11, 1985.
Among the people at the service was Darren Wright, who was about ten feet from where the fire started. The 46-year-old was a teenager at the time.
Mr Wright, who is now head steward at Valley Parade, told a moving story about helping a badly-injured woman to Bradford Royal Infirmary.
“She asked me to ring her daughter,” said Mr Wright, who laid some flowers at the service. “So I walked from BRI about a mile down the road to ring her daughter and told her that her mum was okay but when I came back to the hospital, she had died.”
Mr Wright came into contact with the woman after escaping on to the Valley Parade pitch.
He said: “It is so personal to me because I was right there in the middle of it. I was 17 and I remember it as if it were yesterday. There was a bit of commotion behind us and I saw smoke. I thought I had to get out of there. I was one of the first to try to climb over the wall.”
Mr Wright said a policeman initially tried to stop him, before realising what was going on.
Yesterday, at the stroke of 11am the bells at City Hall played the hymn Abide With Me and the anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone to mark the enduring memory of a disaster caused by the fire which swept though a stand at Valley Parade.
The service, attended by City manager Phil Parkinson and players including James Hanson, Andrew Davies and Aaron Mclean, other club staff and many relatives of those killed or injured, was held at the Memorial sculpture in Centenary Square.
Prayers were led by the chaplain to Bradford City, the Reverend Andy Grieff. Opening the service, Mr Grieff thanked people for attending “as we take the time to remember those who lost their lives and those who were left behind to pick up the pieces on that tragic day.”
Also in attendance were the Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Khadim Hussain, and the Lincoln Mayor and Mayoress, Councillor Patrick Vaughan and Lorna Stow.
The disaster happened when the Bantams were playing their last home match of a promotion-winning season against Lincoln City.
City boss Mr Parkinson, who read a passage from the bible as part of the service, said afterwards: “It was a touching and emotional service. I have been here a few years now.
“It is so important that the city of Bradford remembers the people who lost their lives and all their families.”
Gerry Sutcliffe, MP for Bradford South, said: “It’s been 29 years, but it’s still good to see we get the level of support that we do.”
Mr Sutcliffe said preparations were already under way for a big commemoration on the 30th anniversary of the tragedy, and that discussions had already taken place with the Premier League and the Football League.
Fifa president Sepp Blatter yesterday wrote on Twitter: “My thoughts this morning are with those who lost loved ones in Bradford 29 years ago today.”
And Bradford East Liberal Democrat MP David Ward tweeted: “Great turnout from Bradford public for City fire memorial event – always deeply moving.”
A minute’s silence to mark the anniversary was also held at Odsal Stadium yesterday afternoon ahead of Bradford Bulls Super League clash with St Helens.
Club chairman Marc Green said: “The disaster which unfolded at the home of Bradford City Football Club rocked the city of Bradford and the sporting world and today we wanted to pay tribute, in a fit and proper manner, to those who sadly lost their lives.”