Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The fist time I saw the Berlin Wall

(Excerpt from The World is Flat, by Thomas L. Friedman, Chapter 2, The Ten Forces That Flattened the World)

The fist time I saw the Berlin Wall, it already had a hole in it.
It was December 1990, and I was traveling to Berlin with reporters covering Secretary of State James A Baker III. The Berlin Wall had been breached a year earlier, on November 9, 1989. Yes, in wonderful kabalistic accident of date, the Berlin Wall fell on 11/9.

The wall, even in its punctured and broken state, was still an ugly scar across Berlin. Secretary Baker was making his first visit to see this crumbled monument to Soviet Communism. I was standing next to him with a small group of reporter. “It was a foggy, overcast day,” Baker recalled in his Memoir, The Politics o f Diplomacy, “and in my raincoat, I felt like a character in a John le Carre’ novel. But as I peered through a crack in the wall [near the Reichstag] and saw the high-resolution drabness that characterized East Berlin, I realized that the ordinary men and women of East Germany, peaceful and persistently, had taken matters into their own hands. This was their revolution.”

After Baker finished looking through the wall and moved along, we reporter took turns peering, through the same jagged concrete hole. I brought a couple of chunks of the wall home for my daughters. I remember thinking how unnatural it looked-indeed, what a bizarre thing it was, this cement wall snaking across a modern city for the sole purpose preventing the people on the other side from enjoying, even glimpsing, freedom.

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