Travel Diary: A Berliner Reflects on the Moment When the Wall Came Down

Posted by Kerstin Reichert
November 9, 2009
Secretary Clinton Delivers Speech at Brandenburg Gate

Trip Information Page | Interactive Travel Map | Text the SecretaryAbout the Author: Kerstin Reichert serves as a Cultural Assistant at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin.

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



California, USA
November 10, 2009

Brian in California writes:

We as a nation are blessed to have Hillary Rodham Clinton as our U.S. Secretary of State. Madame Secretary Clinton;stay safe and thank you for making us a proud nation, once again.

November 10, 2009

John in Greece writes:

I was 23 back then. A "kid". I am not sure if I could really understand the importance of this day, at that time. Today I do!

Today, I respect even more this GOOD change of history! A change for FREEDOM!

It was the second time that America was saving Germany. U.S. did it in the WW2. (in fact, U.S.A. saved Germany as a nation from Hitler's paranoia). 20 years ago, U.S. did it once again, by "helping" the "Wall" go down for ever.

Actually, let's be honest: Only U.S.A. cares about global freedom. Sometimes, difficult projects take some time. It's a question of how many the bricks are. But the wall, finally, goes down. (we better remember this paragraph when we analyze today's efforts for global justice)

Hundreds of people, we will never learn about them, died during this "engagement". But they/we made it!

They were heroes!

November 10, 2009

Donald writes:

I think were all proud of the wall coming down and Freedom emerged on both sides. We all take things for granted, in some countries you do not have the same freedoms or choices. I can still remember going on a trip and passing through in Germany, the people were very polite, smiled and greeted us with kindness. I salute the people of Germany and say we all glad this wall came down. A simple humble story to share while on this trip. We landed in Ramstein, Afb in GE and our family decided to go out and get a meal. I can remember ordering a pizza and had a few drinks. My oldest son at the time was around 7 or 8 years old. A pretty girl about his age came to our table. She gave my son a piece of candy. My son was blushing and thanked the girl. It was another ten or 15 minutes later when the girl came back and gave him another piece of candy. At this time my son was surprised and overwhelmed. He thanked the girl for the sweets. As we finished our meal, I went to the counter to pay for it. I happened to look in the back area, low and behold "It was identical twin girls" which at that point I broke out and laughed. They were very wonderful people, down to earth and we had a great time, Thanks to the people of Germany!

November 15, 2009

Bobby in Pakistan writes:

All families should stay together, and we must help displaced people yes i agree, i love America and have my heart and faith in the USA, i grew up in North Philadelphia. Spent over 21 years, i can remember sitting near the liberty bell and Pennsylvania was my home.

Currently i am stuck in Pakistan, I wish to be home with my family this Christmas. I am hurt and living in constant fear. I am Christian, with American accent and western. i wish to home this christmas in Philadelphia at my home on
Roosevelt blvd. Please Mrs Clinton if you can read this message. Help me in Pakistan. I believe in democracy and respect your leadership.

November 16, 2009

Peter in Nigeria writes:

Chancellor Merkel said last week that there were millions of stories wrapped up in the fall of the Berlin Wall. I thank Ms. Reichert for hers and would like to encourage others to tell their tales of 9-10 November 1989. The West Berlin side of the Wall was a great canvas for the wit and and wisdom of pop culture through the Seventies and Eighties. Recollecting where-you-were-when-the-Wall-fell can become a fine archive of ordinary life in last decades of 20th century Germany. Please, more!


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