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the wall falls

December 20, 2009 - Tessa Makepeace
November 9th, 1989, is a very important and memorable day in German history. On that day twenty years ago, the wall separating East and West Germany along with East and West Berlin came down. The area where I live was right in the middle of the events that were happening. Marienborn, which happens to be a couple of kilometers from where my first host family lives, was the first spot on the border that was opened two decades ago. This year on that Monday night I went with my host family to an event exactly where the border was, also called “Checkpoint Charlie.” This point on the border marked one place between East and West Germany. On November 9th this year there were about 700 people there on that night in total. A stage was set up and there were plenty of chairs where everyone could sit down.

To mark the occasion there were several guests. The presidents of Saxony-Anhalt and Niedersachsen, Wolfgang Boehmer and Christian Wulff were both there to speak. At the time twenty years ago, Saxony-Anhalt was part of East Germany and Niedersachsen West Germany. The best part of the night, though, was hearing one special guest speak. Annemarie Reffert, the first resident of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik, or East Germany, to cross the border into the west through the Marienborn checkpoint twenty years ago, gave an interview on stage. It was incredibly interesting to hear what she had to say. She was really relaxed about the whole thing because she has probably given thousands of interviews already and definitely dozens on that day as she said. Basically, she described what happened. She said that she saw on the news that East and West were being reunited and that she spontaneously decided to take her 15 year-old daughter to see if what had been said was true. Her husband half-jokingly told her to bring back a bottle of beer from the west. When Annemarie got to Marienborn, everything was still and her and her daughter were the only people there besides the border patrol. After driving up to the barrier through which she had to cross, she had to explain to the border patrol that was she was doing was legal. It is unimaginable that she was the first one in a reunited country to go into former West Germany. The border partrol had not even known that what she said was true because they had not seen the news yet. Eventually, Annemarie and her daughter got through and drove around Helmstedt, the first town the other side of the border. The train station where I get out of the train every day is Marienborn and Helmstedt happens to be one station further. At the time, Helmstedt was in the west and Marienborn a part of the east. Annemarie did want to buy her husband a bottle of beer like he had asked but the money she had she was not able to use in the west.

After she has spoken, the chairs were cleared off the floor and a famous band called Karat from the DDR played. My host mom was really excited to see them. We were also there with a friend of my host parents and his wife. The friend had studied with my host dad twenty years ago and on the night that the wall fell twenty years go they were hanging out also. My host dad is actually still pretty good friends with him and decided to call him up and invite them to come to the event with us. It is very cool that twenty years later to the day they were able to celebrate something as monumental as this.

I can’t begin to capture the stories that I have heard from people or the emotion that I can tell is behind them. In history class we were asked to find out from our parents or other people who experienced November 9, 1989, what it was like for them. Parents and grandparents of students in my class alone had so many different experiences from that day. Some had lived in West Germany at the time or even in other countries. The main thing is, each person has their very own perspective of what happened and their unique experiences. The thing that strikes me as so incredible about that day is that the day before people would have been shot for doing what they did that day such as climbing over the wall and even destroying it. Although this is true, just 24 hours later that was completely allowed. Living here and hearing these stories is like being a small part of history.


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