Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Good Day for Walls to Come Down

 Today is a day in the history of our time that deserves a moment of notice.  On September 11, 2001, lives were lost, families were devastated. A city was crushed. And we became afraid.

On this day, I want to pay tribute to those who lost their families and who are wishing today they had that last chance to tell their loved ones what they meant to them.

 I am celebrating my family.  I am thankful that we have each other, that we live peacefully and without fear, and that our children live in a time of possibility.  

When I think of family, I often am reminded of an interview with an West Berliner who told what family meant to them after the wall came down in Berlin.  (This link tells you the story. The sound track is "Winds of Change by the Scorpions).

Brandenburg Gate - where East meets West
I was there in 1997.  I was invited as a guest of the German government to attend and report on Green Week, an agricultural trade show and conference.  The family of Germany was on the rebuild, and they were anxious to let the rest of the world see what they had to offer.

I toured the country side of Brandenburg, the city state that surrounded Berlin at the time that was once occupied territory.  We went to Bonn, and toured Berlin, along with 25 other journalists from around the world.

I met with government officials and met people who had grown up on both sides of the wall. 

People told me they were sensitive about covering up the effects of the war and the occupation.   They didn't want to forget what had happened, one woman told me.  

She said if we forget what "we did" we might not remember the next time. I visited a 14th century church in Bonn that had been bombed out and restored with much debate.

Downtown I was taken aback by the bullet spray that speckled the sides of buildings, and the graffiti, which no one would translate for me, likely because there are no words that translate the feelings of oppression, angst, anger and frustration. 

Czech writer, Milan Kundera used the word "Litost" to describe this feeling in his book, "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting" which takes aim at totalitarianism and political oppression.
I couldn't help but be curious about the social healing that was under way and how the people were coping.

When the Wall came down, the difference between the East and West was profound. The West side had continued to develop along with Western world and the East side was behind.  Education, language differences, and cultural differences, along with a history of hurt and heartache were realities.  

At the time of my visit, there were over 300 cranes spanning the skyline of Eastern Berlin to bring the city back from the brink.  Germany had opened its arms to those who fled, and thousands of immigrants came home, creating further challenges with language and employment. At the time, the news papers and officials were reporting that the unemployment rate was 13.5%, which was substantial in a city of 8 million people.  

Was there resentment in this family I wondered? 

 I interviewed a young man who had grown up on the West side of the wall.  He told me that, yes, it was difficult that so much help and investment was needed to help their eastern cousins. 

But then he said: "they are our family. Our aunts. Our mothers. Our fathers. Of course we will help them. We are one." 

So here are we.  The Wall in Berlin no longer exists.  21 years has passed since the wall came down. November 9 is a day that will be celebrated for the rest of memory.

It has been 9 years since 9-11.  The day a new wall was built.  And since then, wars are raging. People have lost their lives that day, and people have lost their lives since.  There are no physical walls, but there are walls.  Walls that the average person does not understand, but we live with the effects of them.

There are no winners and losers in these scenarios.  Just losers.  I wonder sometimes why we find reasons to put up walls, and why we spend so much time and energy trying to tear each other down instead of tearing down the walls. Why destruction of another is  tolerated anywhere in the world. Are we not learning and evolving? When will we get the point that it is pointless? That nobody wins. That political differences, religion, ethnic origin and lifestyle is not a reason to be intolerant. There is no reason to put another in the path of danger or to negatively affect someone's life. 

Not in my backyard, we say.  Well, I have news.  Just 3 hours away from my front door and south of the border there is a nation mourning and reliving 9-11 this weekend, wishing their families were together. Wishing things had been different that day.  

Like my friend in Germany said,  Family is family. No matter what. We are connected.  We are one.

For more news footage on the wall, check out the following:

 9-11 Video - Where were you when the world stopped turning:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very well written,Lynn.Yes,we all have WALLS in our lives.I believe that I have lived long enough to see the WALLS coming down in our family.You will never know what this means to me.I have suffered and cried a lot of tears because of the WALLS.Keep up the good work.
Love Always,Mom