It’s now 38 years since the Bradford Fire Disaster. It was the end of the season, Bradford City had been promoted from the old Division 3 (today’s League 1) as champions (no play-offs to fall back on in those days) and received the trophy that day in front of a packed Valley Parade. Triumph turned quickly to tragedy though as, presumably a dropped cigarette went through the floorboards of the old wooden stand and quickly piles of rubbish underneath caught light. 56 fans from Bradford lost their lives with many more seriously injured, then we must consider the emotional impact of grief and of PTSD for those who lost loved ones, witnessed events first hand and attempted to help rescue people from the burning stand.
I wasn’t there, I had started to get properly interested in football that year, following my home team’s fortunes in the local paper, it was a few years later, that I was able to start attending regularly at the rebuilt stadium. Family friends from church were there though and suffered injuries but the full impact set in on the Monday when we arrived at school to discover that one of my classmates, along with his granddad had been killed.
I usually include a short article on the anniversary. This is because, there is something important in remembering. We want to pay our respects and remember that grief doesn’t have a time limit on it. Even, all these years on, I cannot write about then without the tears coming. And the thing about grief is that new sadness gets caught up and woven into it. The passing of a year reminds us that there are fewer around who remember, people who survived have grown old and died. We’ve said goodbye to people who held us and comforted us in our grief on that day. Yet, by pausing to remember, at the annual service or by articles like this, we ensure that the memory is passed on. So, the 56 will not be forgotten.
Today our thoughts and prayers should be with those who lost loved ones that day as well as many who continue to suffer the after affects.
The Fire Disaster is also a reminder that time is short and life uncertain. The Football Club had plans to clear out the rubbish and renovate the stand, to introduce new safety measures, after the season finished but that was too late. We expected to see our friend on the Monday, just as those who waved family off on that fatal Saturday afternoon did not expect that loved ones wouldn’t make it home from a football game.
May 11th is a reminder that we should never leave things unsaid that need to be said, never delay getting differences resolved, seeking to say sorry or I forgive you. We cannot guarantee if we delay that there will be a chance at a later date. Most importantly, we cannot delay when it comes to eternal matters. We do not know when our last day will be. Don’t delay on telling others the good news about Jesus, don’t delay coming to him.