A number of my friends from the service were actually in Berlin for this event. I love hearing their tales of the experience, and I have spent some time on YouTube viewing the preserved telecasts of that evening in November 1989 when the Wall finally gave way. After reading about the rising tensions around the situation with so many East Germans exiting in Czechoslovakia and Hungary, when it seemed that something big was finally going to happen, I went to Stan and Beate’s house in Melbourne, Florida, where we lived, to watch the news.
Seeing it on TV made it surreal for me, it was simply hard to believe my eyes. A couple of the things on my mind at the time included:
- So many times walking down a street in Berlin, to encounter the Wall there, having to make a several blocks detour to find a new path to where I was headed
- Knowing that the Wall was built to keep the East Berliners in, to keep them from the temptations of exposure and experience in the West
- The awkward checkpoints between West and East that one had to go through in trips within Berlin or out to West Germany
All these things were part of history now. In a few years I would find myself working with a firm that was under contract to help build the government organizations and capacities that were needed in the formerly communist countries. That gave me the opportunity to go to Kiev, Ukraine (with a four-day stopover vacation in Berlin en route), Almaty, Kazakhstan, and even Moscow during that time.
There was something fresh and exciting in those places as they emerged from the time before the Wall. And for me, the introspective thoughts about what we were doing in Berlin in those days, and how it might have contributed to what all these people were experiencing, those were memories to hold close and treasure.
As far as the Two Germanies class went, my little extra credit presentation about the Berlin Wall pulled my “D” up to a “B+.” I guess that’s another thing that Berlin gave to me, besides being my second home town.