Where were you when the wall came down? Twenty-five years ago, some of the people with whom I work were in elementary school. Or yet to be born. They don't have a solid memory of just what a momentous occasion it was when the concrete and barbed wire that separated East from West Berlin ceased to be a barrier. This symbol of division was magically transformed into one of unification. There was a time when there was an Eastern and Western Europe. The idea of any sort of unity, economic or otherwise, was blocked by tensions generated much further east and much further west in the Soviet Union and the United States. I find it a little ironic now that both of those nations emphasized unity right there in their names, but couldn't seem to figure out how to make that happen, especially in a place like Berlin.
You remember Berlin? In Germany? West Berlin used to be an island of democracy created out of the slivers of a city once occupied by four different countries. At the end of World War II, France, England and the United States combined their corners of that battered burg and after a couple of decades of barbed wire, the Soviets (as we used to call them) decided to make a more permanent structure. Families were separated. Lovers mourned the distance between the two worlds marked by machine guns and miles of reinforced concrete. David Bowie sang about it. Nearly three more decades passed and suddenly, on a dare, that edifice of ignominy was pushed over, knocked down, and eventually broken up. Into little bits. Somewhere, back in those newly bright days, a little sliver of one of those bits found its way to me. I would not have guessed it at the time, but the girl who gave it to me turned out to be the woman that I married. Odd how that wall ended up bringing people together.
Just like that song.