The Tragic Optimist

20 years ago

A friend and I were talking the other day, and realized that 1989 was 20 years ago.  (Yeah, the math department may not be too pleased to find out that their librarian is not super fast at the subtraction – luckily mental calculations aren’t really required in librarianship.  We know how to look up the answers).  Usually, if you name a year in the past, I have to do a lot of (slow) mental calculations to remind myself how old I was at the time, where I was in my school or career, and what might have been happening.  But not 1989.  When I hear that year, I immediately remember the fall of ’89.  For all I know, the winter, spring, and summer may not have actually happened, they’re pretty hazy.  But the fall is crystal clear.

I started my freshman year of high school.

We moved to Indiana.

I had my first kiss.

The Berlin Wall fell.

They  probably weren’t all related.

Thinking back to the news that the Berlin Wall had fallen, and seeing the footage of the dancing and the celebration still fills me with happiness.  And it’s so very vivid – we had visited Germany that summer, though we never got to Berlin.  One of our relatives in Germany told us while we were visiting that something would surely happen when Hungary opened its borders with Austria that August.  And wow did it.   I did get to Berlin quite a few times in 1992-3 as an exchange student,  but by then, there wasn’t much of anything left of the wall, though the East and West divisions were certainly still evident.  The New York Times has some pretty spectacular pictures of Berlin now and 20 years ago here.


This public photo documentation wall (including the displayed image) was released and featured by the Senate of Berlin.

1 Comment

  1. Two years ago I was teaching modern world history to a class that was mostly first-years. It was a brutal realization for me that none of them really remembered the Berlin Wall.

    Happy 20 years, Germany!

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