Berlin Wall Account

7 PM, November 9, 1989. The evening started out ordinarily enough for my friends and I. We were a mixed group of students—a few native Berliners, two or three English kids, and myself, an American student on an exchange program.

We were eating dinner at my friend’s loft when the news came that the Berlin Wall was coming down. None of us believed what we had heard, as we had grown up in the shadow of the Wall and all the stories surrounding it. We had learned about the U2 Incident and Kruschev’s, “We will bury you...” threat; the Cuban Missile Crisis; and the Berlin Blockade. We had listened to Ronald Reagan say that the USSR was an “evil empire.” We had gone through adolescence not only apprehensive about dates and exams, but also whether or not we were going to live long enough to take those exams or have the dates with the kids in our high schools.

For us, the Berlin Wall was another item which was to be taken for granted. Its fall was not to be believed. Because none of us believed our ears, we walked outside into the crisp, windy evening. Once outside, we saw throngs of people rusing towards the Wall with hammers and chisels in their hands. I ran back to my friend’s loft and grabbed my camera; I had to document this event. Upon my return, we fell into the crowd and found ourselves at the new border crossing and started to chip away at the Wall. As I banged away at the grafitti laden concerete, I realized I had pieces of history in my hands. Tears of joy streamed down my cheeks. I placed the pieces of the Wall into my pockets, knowing that what I had was an artifact that was to be passed to future generations. The entire night and into the dawning of the next day, we walked along border.

Wherever there were places that concrete panels had been moved by the authorities, East Berliners walked in. We found ourseves welcoming the new arrivals with bananas, Coca-Cola, flowers, and anything else that smacked of Western consumerism. We were overjoyed that East Berliners, who for so long had stayed at the West with wanting in their eyes, could finally experience the abundance we had always taken for granted.

We, as Westerners, could not imagine growing up without Coca Cola, an ATM card, and brand-names on everything we saw and bought. As Western students, we wanted to share all that we had at that moment with the new arrivals from the East, so we did. We bought bananas and cans of Coke that we later placed on the hoods of Trabants as they were driven through the border crossings.

On the morning of November 12, 1989, the border was opened at Potsdamer Platz. Historically, Potsdamer Platz had been a very smart, elegant street in Berlin. During the years of Berlin’s division, it was noting more than a field overgrown with weeds. The morning of November 12, the stage was set to re-create the Potsdamer Platz of old. At the border crossing that morning, I saw two old women, who had presumably not seen one another in 28 years, hug in the middle of what had been no-man’s land.

At that moment, I realized that not only was a country re-unifying, but families were re-unifying as well. I couldn’t imagine not seeing relatives for 28 years because of politics. Again, I creid tears of joys. Berlin and its divided families were coming back together.

Gillian Cox
Boston, Massachusetts

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