Monday, November 9, 2009

When the Berlin Wall Came Crumbling Down

A very good friend of mine was in Berlin when the wall went down in 1989. Fortunate to work for the airlines at the time, he was there for the festivities and all the excitement. He said the best way he could describe it when the eastern residents came across to the western side was that it was like "black and white turning to color." They had not experienced the western side - the fresh food markets with crisp apples, salted nuts, and aromatic breads, and the freedom to do what they wanted to do.

He took home a large piece of the wall that he still has sitting on a bookshelf to this day. On one side is graffiti, on the other bleakness. He gave me a small piece of his part of the wall, which I still cherish to this day. It sits with other treasures of mine in a keepsake box on my writing desk.

Today Berlin Marks the 20th Anniversary of the Wall's Fall. As noted in Voice for America:
World leaders, dignitaries and thousands of visitors are in Berlin to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is a time to remember the past and celebrate the November day in 1989 that changed the future.

Despite the rain, crowds gathered at the Bornholm Bridge, the first checkpoint in the Berlin Wall to open the night of November 9, 1989.

The Wall stood for nearly three decades, dividing the city and Germany into East and West. But in the end, protests and peaceful revolutions, such as in Poland, and changes in Moscow brought it down. That led to the reunification of Germany and the end of the Cold War.

Americans cannot even begin to understand what it is like to live under a communist rule. To have so many limitations put on their lives. We have so many freedoms that we take for granted - because, as Americans, that is all we have ever known.

When I visited Germany in 2002 I did not make it to Berlin. But I did have the opportunity to go to Oktoberfest in Munich and visit friends in some other small towns, as well as see Rothenburg, a beautiful medieval city with wonderful sites and shops and a solid wall built around it. I wondered then what it must have been like just to be surrounded by that wall, let alone the Berlin Wall with its guards and barbed wire. Rothenburg's wall was originally about safety, the Berlin wall was about control.

I have not been back to Europe again since 2002, but hope to go again soon. I have always felt I would live there for a few years, especially in France or England. I felt very much at home in Europe, often times more than I do here in the Midwest.

Until that time, I wish the people of Germany the best in their celebration of the fall of the wall. I wish them happiness and health and to truly enjoy the freedom and unity that the destruction of the wall brought to them. And although I cannot get back there quite yet, at least I still have my little piece of the wall sitting on my desk at home.

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