March 9, 2010
When the Walls came tumblin down, when the walls...
Came tumblin, tumblin...down. It was November of 1989. I was beginning a new career as I watched my old career crumble into history. As I sat at work listening to the radio, I could not concentrate. I sat mezmorised, almost shaking. It was a Thursday. When I got home from work I turned on the news and spent the rest of the evening watching in awe. People were crying and hugging each other and talking and piece by piece, dismantling the Berlin Wall.
My connection to this history is probably in my blood. Historically, I am part German. My ancestors on my mom's-father's side of the family came from Germany. My great grandfather's name was Rudolph Donnerstag. If you know any German at all, you know that Donnerstag means Thursday in German. Or Thunder Day, Thor's Day. But it wasn't the sound of thunder that shook the earth. It was the silence as the East German Guards stood there at the ready, but not shooting as one person after another began tentatively walking forward, climbing, and then picking at the wall.
That Thursday in November as I watched the tv, I thought of my Grandpa, when East and West Germans were allowed to crawl all over the wall. I remember the feeling of exileration when I saw the sillouette of a man standing up on the wall for the first time, looking out over the crowd that was quickly gathering. It was surreal.
Shortly before I was born, the wall went up to prevent more East Germans from escaping through Berlin. By 1961 millions had already done so, many of them young people. It had been fairly easy for them to escape through the city. The East German government wanted to stop the bleeding.
When I was In Junior high school I began studying the german language. I was even more connected my ancestors. When I graduated from high school I decided to make a career of using the german language, in hopes of going to germany. I did go once. I was enthralled with the beauty of the country. I read it's books, I listened to it's music. So, when the Berlin Wall fell, it meant a little more to me than it might have, had I not had these connections to Germany. In more than relation, Germany was in my blood. I was emotionally connected to Germany.
So, now I sit here looking at this little piece of wall in my hand, a gift from a friend who was there when it happened, a remnant of a artificial political division that separated families, and I think about the values those millions of East German people believed in when they decided to leave their homes to escape to the West. I remember the emotions I felt when the Wall came down. I believe in that same value of freedom to choose my destiny, just like my ancestors did when they came to this country.