NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 9 — 20 years ago
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the end of the Berlin Wall. I remember that I was sitting in the cafeteria at Asbury College during my sophomore year when the news broke that the wall was coming down. I’ve always felt a connection to Germany. My connection initially was to West Germany because I was born there while my Dad was in the army. I remember doing a report on West Germany in 4th grade because of this connection I had. We had a lot of reminders of Germany in the house when I was growing up, including a cuckoo clock with the metal pine-cone weights that helped the clock keep time. One of the first things my mother did when she woke up in the morning was to pull the chains on the clock to reset the weights at the top. That sound announced the start of the day.
As a child of the 70s and 80s, I remember the Cold War. I remember the division between Eastern Europe and Western Europe. That division was epitomized by the wall that divided a city. I remember not understanding why anyone would live in West Berlin when it was “surrounded” by East Germany, starting with East Berlin on the other side of the wall. But if that was where you were from, why leave? It’s just as much your city as it is those who live on the east side. And thankfully, those residents never left, because I am sure their presence in West Berlin served as a beacon of sorts to the many easterners who longed for a better existence than the Soviet structure provided.
I saw a story tonight that included an interview with a man who looked to be about 35 or so. He grew up in West Berlin and now lives in what once was East Berlin. He commented that he and his friends growing up thought the fall of the Berlin Wall was an inevitability. That was not my feeling growing up. And I think there were a lot of people older than me who didn’t look at it that way.
For about half my life, there was a Berlin Wall, and the other half has seen the reunification of Germany and the fall of the Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe which fell in relatively rapid succession. It truly was an historic time. And an inspiring time because it was a tangible demonstration of the power of ideas. Freedom and democracy won out.
We could debate what caused the Wall to fall, but this doesn’t feel like the right time for those discussions. I’d rather thank the German people who clung to their dreams of a unified nation and refused to be silenced forever.