Tonight, as I am standing on the roof terrace of the U.S. Embassy building watching the cheerful crowds of tens of thousands who have come to the Brandenburg Gate despite the pouring rain and wait for the domino stones to fall, all kinds of thoughts reflecting the past 20 years cross my mind.
I clearly remember the moment when the wall came down 20 years ago. At that time, I was 24 years old and pregnant! While watching the TV in my tiny apartment in Prenzlauer Berg, East Berlin, I couldn’t believe my ears and eyes: Crowds of East Germans were climbing onto and crossing the wall. It wasn’t until the next day, and until we were sure that they would let everybody return home again, that my husband and I crossed the border to West Berlin, where we were met by euphoric West Berliners banging on the roof of our Trabant car and hugging and kissing us through our open car windows. Everyone was so overwhelmed by joy and happiness.
In the days and weeks to follow, we started to realize that nothing was going to be the same again. There were no rules anymore, and we were torn between feelings of disorientation, uncertainty and fear but also big hopes for the future. My husband’s and my main concern was: What would the future hold for our unborn child?
This year our son turned 19, and it is hard for him to imagine what life was like in the former G.D.R. We are grateful and relieved that he is growing up in a free, democratic country without travel and other restrictions. He has already been to the United States and many other countries several times and can take many things for granted that we at his age would never have dared to dream.
I was only a few years older than my son is now when the wall came down. At that time, all that I knew about America and the American way of life I basically learned by watching Western TV. It would have never occurred to me that 20 years later, I would – as an employee of the American Embassy in Berlin – meet and shake hands with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has come to Berlin to celebrate together with the heads of state of the other Allied Powers and with us Germans the anniversary of the unique events in 1989 that set off a domino reaction in many parts of the world.
Related Information: Voices of U.S. Diplomacy and the Berlin Wall Online Exhibition