People struggled to cope with news of a sporting event which only nuclear warfare would have replaced as the major headline.
We had hoped that Graham Kelly, the secretary of the Football Association, would help navigate us through the undergrowth of rumour, innuendo, allegation and wild surmising that had clogged the thinking over that weekend.
It was a forlorn hope and, on reflection, utterly naive and perhaps cruel. Kelly was new in the position and probably would have needed a cabbie to direct him to his offices at Lancaster Gate. But we had to start somewhere. We knew that, in a previous Hillsborough semi-final, between Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1981, there had been almost 40 injuries caused by crushing inside the stadium. Had the FA, therefore, been right to assign the game to that same ground?
Very quickly, as Kelly sweated under the lights, it became clear that the event had overwhelmed him and, as he floundered in his efforts to give coherent answers, the inquisitorial tone became softened by a feeling of sympathy for this man who would have been expecting no more controversies to beset him than the abuse of referees.
However, immediately outside the studio he betrayed the incomprehension which would afflict the FA for months ahead, obstructing their attempts to convey anything constructive and meaningful in their explanation of the event. He turned to me and asked, almost despairingly, "What do you think we should do next?"
Spurning this offer to become an FA consultant on terracing tragedies, I was savvy enough to realise he would have asked the same of the cleaning lady in front of us at the time, so great was his despair.
If that wasn't enough to suggest an era of controversy and befuddlement lay ahead, another serious clue was laid in front of me three nights later, when we went to Watford to get a response from Elton John, then that club's chairman, to the tragic event and to film the first minute's silence to be held in a league game in respect of the dead.
To my astonishment I was met by outright hostility by many Watford supporters, some of whom went so far as to tell me they would spurn the tribute, expressing deep dislike of the Liverpool supporters whom they claimed were aggressive and troublesome, whatever that meant. It was all very well for me to conclude quickly that this was the insensitive, tasteless whingeing of southern wimps for whom, 'Jolly well done' was their trumpet voluntary.
But I was shaken again at the tail end of that same season at Wembley, when I watched Liverpool beat Everton with the only crowd problem occurring when Stuart McCall scored an equaliser to put the game into extra-time, inciting an Evertonian invasion.
However, before the game started, from our position in the television compound, we witnessed ticketless Liverpool supporters perilously climbing up the roan pipes of the stand to try to gain access.
'There you are. Says it all, doesn't it?' my producer said. No, it didn't. Of course, Hillsborough was on his mind, but I had watched Old Firm supporters through the years using techniques only applied by sherpas in the Himalayas to gain access to grounds around Europe; this was not a distinctly Liverpudlian trait. Although you could not approve of entry that way, I felt the strength of affinity between Glasgow and Liverpool that day, in the way that obsession with supporting a club might take you beyond certain conventional bounds, but is one of the principal reasons for the endurance of these institutions.
So it was ominous to think that such behaviour could easily feed into the burgeoning official view that these supporters had shaped their own disaster in Sheffield. Sadly, shape that view it did. It wasn't so much tunnel vision. It was that nobody outside Merseyside really cared.
This, I think, stemmed from the simplistic dismissal of the footballing culture as existing in a parallel world that would require some elements in society to believe they need a passport to enter. But the proper investigation of the events at Hillsborough is no different from Operation Elveden and the pursuit of corruption within the relationship between the police and the media.
This inability to grasp the impact of this simple and beautiful game on its followers was laid bare to me on the evening of the Ibrox disaster in 1971 when, in discussing the merits or otherwise of cancelling our programme of that evening, I was asked by a BBC executive how many people had been at Ibrox that day.
"80,000," I informed him.
"66 dead out of 80,000 is not all that many."
My reply was not career-enhancing.
It implied to me that, had it happened in a mine, heaven and earth would have been moved to reflect such enormity. A football stadium, from his point of view, was disassociated with real life. Perhaps the pursuit of the truth about Hillsborough, the resilience of the pursuers and the shattering outcome will cause an evaluation of a culture which surely has now proved it can provide some of the most potent bonds in society.
However, I now feel guilty about putting Kelly through that ordeal when he had nothing to say and, at that stage, was a total innocent.
For I suffered, like him, an even worse fate, later, in May 1985, on the day of the Bradford disaster when the stand went on fire and 56 supporters died. I had pre-recorded an introduction to the evening's programme in the sunshine of Dens Park, after the match there, with no knowledge of what had happened at Bradford. That night, my recorded words were transmitted starting with: "What a wonderful day for football!" The news programme ahead of me had just shown their last picture of a man who had become a human fireball, dying in horrendous slow-motion.
The juxtaposition of my banal pleasantries with this grotesque scene brought me an avalanche of criticism which could not have been exceeded had I strangled Her Majesty's corgis in front of camera. History has odd ways of biting back at you.
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