Upcoming 25th Anniversary

Berlin -- A week from today will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. I remember being present on the day it fell. Tumultuous times.

Today, Sunday, November 2, 2014, I got up with the sun, walked a block and a half to where the wall once stood, crossed over Bethaniendamm at Melchior Strasse into former East Berlin, bought three breakfast brötchen at a little bakery, and walked back home back past the great St. Thomas Church in the former West. A remarkable walk in that it was so ordinary. Twenty-five years earlier (or fifty years earlier, for that matter) such a walk would have been impossible.

On Christmas day of 1963, Paul Schultz, an eighteen-year-old East German, tried to cross at the same spot and was shot by border guards as he was about to jump from atop the last barrier into the West. He died that evening at Bethanien Hospital, a block away. The guard who shot him was rewarded with a new briefcase and wristwatch by the East German government.

Is history's verdict about the wall (or about anything in our lives) up to those of us who are still around to write the last chapter? Yes, I'd say. And perhaps it is our duty to intervene to make the last chapter a happy ending, to the extent such an ending is possible. How should we write the last chapter of the wall's demise? A celebration of the ordinary and the mundane seems appropriate to me, like my walk this morning. For others there are still scores to settle and lives to avenge. So be it.