Thursday, November 12, 2009


G.M. Malliet

There are occasions we can never forget. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the assassinations of JFK, RFK, and MLK are among the occasions that come to mind.

Occasions where you not only remember where you were, you can never forget where you were, what you were doing, when you heard the news.

But there is a happy occasion that comes to mind, also: the day the Berlin Wall fell, twenty years ago on November 9. The day we woke up, most of us with nothing more pressing on our minds than what to have for breakfast, and saw the amazing images of the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Of people cavorting on top of the much-hated, nearly 100-mile-long concrete edifice.

The day communism collapsed in Europe, seemingly overnight.

One day you’d be shot for trying to cross the border (and many did die trying), the next day a giant Oktoberfest was in progress.

No one could believe it. Freedom was as “easy”—and as difficult—as that.

The escape attempts, whether successful and unsuccessful, were heartbreaking. How desperate do you have to be to make a break for freedom with your family in a homemade hot air balloon? To spend months digging a secret tunnel, with the hundreds of occasions for betrayal and discovery? To make a mad and almost certainly suicidal dash across the “death strip”?

By coincidence (having forgotten the 20th anniversary of this event was upon us) my husband and I visited the Newseum for the first time last week, where as it turns out, part of the Berlin Wall is on exhibit. This, combined with a display of Pulitzer Prize-winning photos, many of atrocities too painful to witness, and the 9-11 exhibit (ditto), provides a powerful one-two-three punch. I would urge everyone visiting Washington, D.C., to take in the Newseum, but bring a handkerchief. The exhibits are among the most potent reminders of the freedoms it is so easy to take for granted—beginning with that writers’ favorite, the freedom of the press.

My turn at this blog is a day late for Veterans Day, but let this serve as a very small tribute to those whose sacrifices let us live without walls, real or imagined.

Berlin wall photo from


Alan Orloff said...

Nice post, Gin. I echo your sentiments wholeheartedly.

Jessica Lourey said...

Thanks for a succinct and clear reminder of the value of freedom, Gin.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

That was such an amazing day when the Berlin Wall came down. It really gave me chills. I remember how difficult it was for my parents to even absorb.

Great post on Freedom. Thanks.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Wow, 20 years already! I remember exactly where I was when I heard about it - at work in a law firm in San Franciso. The whole firm was abuzz with excitement. I even have a small piece of the wall on my bookcase, courtesy of a boss who visited the site shortly after.

Wonderful post, Gin. I can't wait to see the Newseum.

Beth Groundwater said...

It's never too late to thank our actively serving troops and our veterans for the sacrifices they made to preserve the freedom that we all hold so dear!

Julia Buckley said...

Great post. It's always good to hear a new perspective about the veterans and the freedom they fight for. I'm afraid despite all our efforts, they are never lauded enough.

JournoMich said...

Thank you for remembering and reminding. I have intended to visit the Newseum on so many occasions, but will now make every effort to do so.