Monday, November 9, 2009

20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall

Bill Smith: Today is the 20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. It is a great day for Liberty that should not be forgotten. This is also an important day of remembrance for the Smith family. Twenty-two years ago, I was a military officer assigned to a position working with the Europeans directing classified contracts. Thus, I was not allowed to travel to Berlin on the US military troop train as train ran through then East Germany to reach Berlin.

Our son, the creator of this site - SkierBrian - a boy scout in junior high traveled on the troop train with scout troop leaders who were non-restricted military on leave. I could have flown to Berlin, but the purpose of the scouting event was for the scouts to take the troop train to Berlin to see parts of East Germany and to learn about the restrictions of communism on the East Germans.

So, Brian visited the Berlin Wall 22 years ago. He learned about communism and about the Soviet controlled section of Berlin. He learned about Germans in the East German sector who were killed or imprisoned when they attempted to cross the Wall to their families and friends and to freedom in the West Germany sector of Berlin.

Just two years later, 20 years ago today, we joyful watched on TV as the Berlin Wall fell. Although we vicariously rejoiced with the Germans as part of the wall fell, I especially recall the tears of joy running down the face of Brian's mother, Lois. She had prayed continually two years before as our son traveled to and from Berlin under the watch care of others.

For those of us who remember that day, we remember the lesson that Communism does not work. For those who are too young to remember it first-hand, please take time to watch this video.

by Fred Smith, CEI President: On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came crashing down. Today marks the twentieth anniversary of that great day – one of the greatest in the history of human freedom. Communism in Germany finally collapsed, setting off a domino effect that would reach Moscow within two years. Families torn apart for nearly three decades came together in tearful, happy reunions as the world watched. The Cold War was finally, mercifully, ending.

Many historians cite World War I as the twentieth century’s opening act. Sixteen million souls died in that war over nothing. Two of the nations it toppled became the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Communist and fascist governments would combine to kill more than one hundred million people over the next seven decades. Those needless deaths are the twentieth century’s legacy, every bit as much as the transistor or rock ‘n roll.

The fall of the Berlin Wall was that short, bloody century’s coda. November 9, 1989 was also the start of something better. It was a nation’s way of saying that it was ready to move on to better times. To a new world defined not by oppression, ideology, and servitude, but by freedom. Sweet, precious, fragile freedom. Seeing the footage on the news was like witnessing something being born. The hope and potential that surround every birth were glimmering in people’s eyes. It was beautiful.

What Berlin’s people did on that day also inspired half a continent to send the same message to their leaders. What a noble achievement. How worthy of commemoration, now that twenty years have passed. What a shame, then, that this milestone has been treated more like a millstone by the media. Reporters more concerned with today’s news cycle are giving at best perfunctory attention to a day that showed us all that is good about humanity.

To partially right that wrong, CEI has produced a short video [posted above] commemorating what the Berlin Wall’s fall symbolizes. . . . Of course, it is hard to convey in a few short minutes what the people living in that Wall’s shadow went through for 29 long years. So put yourself in their shoes. Think what they thought. Look right in the eyes of those separated families as they try to catch glimpses of each other over that wall. And the people who risked their lives escaping. And the soldier carrying back the body of someone who didn’t make it. What was going through his mind as he carried out his grisly task? That might give you an idea of what the Berlin Wall meant.

We all need to remember the Berlin Wall. We need to say to each other, “Never again.” And we have to mean it.
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