Liverpool's principal owner John Henry praised the perseverance of the Hillsborough families in their campaign for justice, admitting he was “humbled” by their dignity.
The American, significantly making his first appearance at the annual service to remember those who died in the 1989 disaster, gave a reading before addressing thousands assembled on the Kop at Anfield.
"I can understand the importance of the 96 to the club," Henry said.
"I have been humbled by the dignity and perseverance of the families in their search for truth and justice.
"It is an honour to be here on this particular day, the first service since the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report.
"Now there is a real belief that justice will be served.
"This club will always cherish the memory of family and friends lost 24 years ago today. They will forever be part of Liverpool Football Club."
Henry's reading was followed later in the afternoon by Everton chairman Bill Kenwright, symbolising the way in which the city had been united in both grief and the subsequent quest for justice.
"I hope since that day you have known the support of Everton Football Club for you," he said.
"I hope by this time next year you will be celebrating the greatest victory that a team in this country could do."
Henry and Kenwright were joined by Liverpool chairman Tom Werner, manager Brendan Rodgers, backroom staff and players in the Kop in front of thousands of members of the public, some carrying banners, many wearing the colours of Liverpool and also plenty in Everton blue.
Many former players who attended, including Kenny Dalglish, who was also the manager at the time of Hillsborough and returned to the club for a second spell in 2011, Alan Hansen, who played in the ill-fated semi-final, and Kevin Keegan.
The arrival of the Hillsborough families, en masse, prompted a prolonged standing ovation from the members of the public seated immediately behind them on the Kop.
This was the first anniversary to be marked after the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report into the 1989 disaster.
The findings once and for all absolved fans of any wrongdoing in the tragedy, instead highlighting the failings and subsequent cover-up by the police and other agencies.
Families had campaigned long and hard for the truth to be made public and while the report was the first step on that road there remains a long way to go.
Later this month there will be a preliminary hearing in London to decide the parameters for a new inquest after the original verdicts were quashed last year.
That process could realistically take a couple of years but, unlike this time 12 months ago, the Hillsborough families can at least now feel fully vindicated that their determined campaigning for the lies to be exposed will not be in vain.
Margaret Aspinall, chairman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said the cover-up of the disaster "will be a stain on this nation and certain individuals - and they know who they are".
She added: "It is a real honour to be able to stand in front of you today and say after nearly a quarter of a century the real truth is out, a truth that finally puts the record straight. Now justice must follow.
"It has taken 8,551 dark days and a report incorporating 395 pages to finally expose what we all knew from day one - the fans were not blame."
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