Issue The Unknown Hero

As told by Paul Firth

No reader of BfB needs to be urged to ‘remember’.

There is by now a whole generation too young to have a memory of 1985. They can still pay their respects and most do.

Among those of us who have the clearest of memories, some would prefer to forget, but cannot. Others can contain the emotions that their memories evoke; some are less good at controlling those emotions.

Some are very private about their memories. Others share them more publicly. Emotions are like memories in that respect. Gone are the days when grown men were not allowed to cry in public. But it isn’t compulsory. Occasionally we just can’t help it.

There are so many sad memories that some of us need something more positive to act as a counterweight. And, just as we keep reading about how many people know so little of the events of that day, this year one of the most positive acts will be touched on in two television programmes.

Excellent as Football Focus was, the only detailed reference so far to real heroism came in the Gabby Logan radio programme. That gentle hero will be seen on both local television news programmes on Tuesday evening. I am privileged to have got to know him and to count him as a friend.

He won’t like my writing this, but he’ll understand. I’ve written about him at length before and I’ve told anyone who wants to listen that he is the only true hero I know. He will share his memories with you, if someone asks him, but he won’t volunteer. He’s far too modest for that.

But if it wasn’t for people like him, many more than 56 people would have lost their lives. One young man in particular will be seen with him and will, I’m sure, express again his eternal gratitude for that bravery.

At some time on Tuesday I shall shake his hand again, the hand that David Sharpe put back together. We might even give each other a hug, although I’m always afraid I will crush the still slight frame. He will go on telling me that ‘anyone would have done the same’ in that stand and it will be the only time I don’t believe him.

He will be somewhere in that crowd in Centenary Square, not a Very Important Person. I shall not even give you his name or a description, because he wouldn’t want the fuss, not on that morning. When you’ve seen him on television in the evening, the day of remembrance will be almost over. In a year’s time he’ll expect to be forgotten by the great majority of those who ‘remember’.

He knows a few of us need no reminding. He is never forgotten by those who know what he did. Those less fortunate, those who do not know him, may prefer to think of him as the Unknown Hero, as a symbol of all that is best from that dreadful afternoon. I find it helps get me through the day to know that he was there and that, amidst all that sorrow, his bravery shows there are a few moments that display the human spirit at its very best.

Now that really is someone worth respecting.