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I first visited West Berlin in 1983 and spent a memorable half-day in the other Berlin. It was the height of Reagan's new tough guy image with the Soviets, and a new bunch of Pershing II Balistic Missiles had just been stationed in West Germany, so cold war tensions were running high. We had to pass through the checkpoint at Friedrich Strasse, and I can still remember the armed Guards standing with their guns in silhouette in front of the arched windows of the train-station.
I went back again in '85, and once again felt the suffocation in the East. I also remember how, travelling by train, to West Berlin, the whole train seemed to breathe a huge sigh of relief when we left the DDR and arrived at West Berlin's Bahnhof Zoo. But I will never forget hearing of the fall of the wall itself, on a sunny November afternoon in Portland, Or., half way across the world. I will remember excatly where I was. And I thought...man, I'm totally in the wrong place here, and I thought about my college entrance essay which I had written about the wall, and sighed with relief that I no longer had to devote my energy to dismantle the wall, as I had said I would do in the essay, but could now focus on other seemingly impossible flights of fancy.
A year before, in December 1988, I was in West Germany, filling out an application to go on the Lewis and Clark Overseas trip to East and West Germany, and a family friend had said to me..." the only problem I see for you in going is that you might fall in love with an East German girl." Eleven months later, nothing could have stopped me, or her.
The events of the night of November ninth became real to me when, while on a train from Bonn to West Berlin, I looked out the train window and saw a Trabant zipping along in the West German country-side. Only a year before that would have been totally impossible.
Michael Winans, New Haven, CT.
posted 3 years, 6 months ago
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