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Near Tragedy In Leeds

We are Leeds, Leeds, Leeds!

In the summer after middle school, we traveled to England to visit my mom’s family. One of my uncles got us tickets to go see famed Leeds United play at historic Elland Road. This was my first game in Europe, and I remember clearly it was against Norwich, as they wore bright yellow jerseys, quite appropriate for a team nicknamed the canaries. I remember the stadium was dark and dank, but nothing about where we sat, or of the actual game itself.

I do remember the crowd was loud and lots of singing although I had no idea what they were chanting. Probably better that I didn’t know. But what I remember the most make me shudder any time I think about it, especially now knowing about the tragedy that happened to the 96 Liverpool fans at Hillsborough, just 25 miles southwest of Leeds. In the old Elland Road stadium, they had certain exits to leave through, with none of the security and safety precautions they have now. At some point as the crowd got closer and closer trying to squeeze through the gates, the ground-swell lifted my my feet off the ground. I was forcibly pushed forward with hundreds of others desperately trying to get out. I was smashed in, and my feet did not touch the ground as I was moved along for probably 20-30 yards.

Fortunately, I stayed upright. If I had fallen down, I could have easily been trampled and possibly killed. Although it was exciting as a teenager, when I hear about the tragedies that happened at Hillsborough and in other stadiums, I thank my lucky stars. My mom must have been a wreck that day.