20 Years Ago in Berlin

POSTED: Monday, November 9, 2009 - 10:45pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - 12:06pm

A Personal View of the Fall of the Wall

John F. Kennedy exhorted doubters in 1963 to see for themselves saying, “"Let them come to Berlin."

So many journalists did, and in 1989 a small group of reporters of which I was a part, were there because something big was coming.

Others in our group remember the excitement.

“I came back to Germany after living there a year before the wall came down, said San Francisco author and journalist Peter Laufer. “I came across on the first flight I could get on. What was memorable about that flight was the overwhelming euphoria. Everybody on that plan was alive in a way…it was a party.”

Little did we know that as we stood in front of the infamous Checkpoint Charlie...it would one day be a tourist attraction in the middle of a Berlin street.

And the warning sign that is now a curiosity was once deadly serious.

“Being economics and business reporters,” says Christopher Power of BusinessWeek, “we were curious what would be found on the other side of that wall when it came down, in terms of the economic reality. And I would say initially, our worst fears were realized.”

But that night, the crowds gathered, the hammers came out, and the wall fell to chunks.

“I think you would have to call it just a screaming success,” Laufer says. “It fueled the end of the cold war.”

The next day, only gaping holes were left through which shy Russian soldiers peeked at the tourists.

An old world had ended, and a new one had begun...

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