The Re-fall of the Wall …

With a cold drizzle that built into a series of mud puddles, crowds gathered to remember the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, or “Mauerfall,” as it is being called in German. The center of attention was the long row of 7-foot-tall handpainted dominos, most painted by schoolchildren from around the world, with a strong representation from Berlin schools. Several dominos were from Mexico, and portrayed the US/Mexico wall, as well as a “death trail.”

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Once the evening’s official ceremonies started, large screens broadcast the center-stage events down the street. The dais included, among other distinguished political figures, Mikhail Gorbachev. He seemed to get the loudest cheers. Videos from the 1989 protests showed Germans shouting “Gorbi! Gorbi!”—he clearly earned folk-hero status.

The performances included a song by Placido Domingo that had the crowds bouncing and brought the dais to its feet. Bon Jovi performed, and then reflected on his presence at the wall in 1989; they project a video of his chipping off a piece of the wall from ’89.

Hillary Clinton represented my country (well), receiving cheers from the group standing on the roof of the American Embassy just next to the Brandenburg Gate. President Obama addressed the crowds via a video from Washington.

The Polish Solidarity movement was honored and given repeated, strong recognition. Several Solidarnoscść contingents were visible: one group was in charge of tumbling several of the dominos, another had large banners. Lech Wałęsa spoke from beneath an umbrella. Hillary Clinton was among those who praised the Solidarity movement.

When the dominos tumbled, they stopped midpoint at a stable concrete domino that did not budge: it was sent from the Goethe House in Beijing, and was decorated with characters that appeared to be Chinese, but in fact were invented characters spelling out a German poem. The halt at this block was set up as if it were a surprise element in the evening, and the program then reflected on the meaning of this block that was still left standing. After this intermittent moment, the domino tumbling continued, and finished its run. (After the ceremonies, this standing domino, bookended by the toppled blocks, attracted crowds of picture-takers.)

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Security checkpoints were set up as you got closer to the Brandenburg gate, just to check for things like glass bottles in people’s bags. But at some point the guards held back the crowds, and a few took matters into their own hands and jumped the barricades, in an ironic re-enactment of the wall-crashing of ’89. At one point the guards must have let them through, as a heavier crowd started swarming down the sidewalk. But later I watched people held behind the barricades, even as those toward the front were starting to leave. I have a feeling there will be commentary about the irony of these actions on blogs.

The evening ended with dramatic, crowd-pleasing fireworks.

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CNN Video of the Celebrations

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One Response to “The Re-fall of the Wall …”

  1. Thanks Susan – very moving just reading about!

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