Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Where Was I When The Wall Came Down?

My most vivid memory of that time was sitting in band. The band director had brought in a TV and we were watching the coverage of the Wall coming down live. We hadn't got out our instruments, it didn't seem important enough. What was happening on TV was far more important than the next concert or football game.

One of the band members that year was a German exchange student. She played the flute, I think. I honestly don't remember much of the class itself, although the images of the celebrations on the Wall are engraved on my mind. But I remember the reactions of the German exchange student, whose name is lost in the morass of my mind, better than just about everything else.

As you may know, there were signs of big things happening a few days prior to the Wall coming down. Gates were opened, and East Germans were visiting the West for the first time in decades. I remember someone asked our exchange student what she thought, expecting her to be all joy and pleasure. She wasn't happy. She was worried. She tried to explain, but she was just a high school kid and she was trying to convey deep concepts in a foreign language. Her eyes told us as much as her words.

The day the Wall came down I think I saw her crying. Both joy and terror. Joy at the fact that no more lives would be lost trying to cross that evil thing, and terror at what was going to happen to her country now. She was understandably worried about how the East Germans were going to impact West Germany. How the two economies were going to be able to deal with each other. Would East Germany drag the West down? Or would the West be able to pull the East up? Would East Germans try to move to the West in case another Wall went up? She wanted to know what was happening in her own home town. And so, deep in the joy of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, I was able to catch a tiny somber glimpse of the larger picture. And I've always been grateful to her for that insight.

Where was I when the Wall came down? I was in High School, getting ready to graduate into a brave new world. What about you?