November 9, 1989 – I don’t think most Americans understand what an amazing day that truly was. Those of us stationed in Berlin could understood because we were locked in as well. There were only so many ways to leave the city and each one, other than flying, took tons of paperwork. You couldn’t just jump in your car and drive to Frankfurt for example. You had to fill out a bunch of paperwork and get that approved, there were only a couple of roads you were allowed to take out of the city and you absolutely had to stay on that ONE road. No pulling over and sightseeing. You also had a time limit, if you didn’t check in at the checkpoint at the other border you could be in a world of trouble.
Each of the Allied sectors had their own duty trains that left the city as well. American, British and French. Those also required paperwork and followed specific routes. We were allowed to take any of those duty trains depending on where we wanted to go. The American duty train ran overnight so you didn’t really get to see much and slept most of the way there.
That’s not to say we were allowed to just drive off after the wall fell. We were still active duty soldiers and still had to submit paperwork and follow the designated corridors. Just because the wall was open didn’t mean there weren’t Soviet and East German troops all over, they didn’t just leave.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to head to the wall when word first went out. I was a wee bit pregnant and had two little girls at home as well, and well probably had to work too. It was definitely a party for weeks after. I also wish I could say I had some piece of the wall but, alas, I didn’t get any after my divorce.
I know that Berlin was my favorite duty station and I was privileged to go twice. I’m pretty sure that most of the people stationed there think the same thing. My Facebook feed has been inundated with wall posts all day and I’ve loved seeing and hearing everyone’s experiences of that day and even during their tours there.
I ended up stationed in Germany for a third time and was able to visit Berlin a couple more times several years after the wall fell so I could really see the changes the years had made. My first observation was that everything had flip-flopped. Because East Berlin was behind in everything tons and tons of money was being poured into tearing down the old buildings and brand new tall modern buildings were being built. In my eyes the old west part of the city now turned into the old eastern side. The buildings were becoming derelict and it wasn’t the clean beautiful city I remembered, which was rather sad.
Checkpoint Charlie and the surrounding area doesn’t look anything like it did when I was there in the 80’s. I honestly could not tell where the wall was at all. They tore that thing down totally except a few places they kept as monuments and to remind people it was there and to hopefully prevent it from happening again.