Residents of West Berlin show children to their grandparents who reside on the Eastern side, 1961 –

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I am an American who studied in Germany in 1970. In December of that year, I visited East Germany several times. I knew a number of families that had been separated by the wall. One night as I was crossing at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, I heard machine guns attempting to prevent a crossing.

On one return to the West, I was questioned by border guards for hours before I was finally allowed to return late at night.

I happened to be in Germany on a business trip the day the Wall came down and it was one of the most joyous things I have ever witnessed. A couple of days later I was caught in a traffic jam of Trabi’s (an East German car) headed West. The driver of a car next to me motioned to me to roll my window down. He started throwing candy into my car. He said, “We are going to Paris. We don’t know how long this will last, and it might be my only chance!”

One of the families I visited in East Germany had a 7 year old daughter who was learning to speak Russian. In the late 90’s I was asked to translate at an international church conference in Independence, Mo. When I walked into the translation booth and saw my German partner, she said, “I know you!” You visited my family in East Germany when I was 7. She said, “my dream after your visit was to go to college in another country and study, like you did, but I knew it would never be possible.” She had graduated from an American college, and there we were again, working together.

I *hate* walls that separate people, and work to break down barriers wherever I can. That has led me to learn to speak Persian and Japanese in addition to German.

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