Sunday, September 24, 2006

Checkpoint Charlie (Pt. 2)

On the morning of the 28th of October, 1961, the sun rose over this scene: Soviet Tanks faced US ones across checkpoint Charlie. In a tense standoff that foreshadowed much of what was to come, the West demonstrated its resolve. And didn't blink.

Tensions reached this level because the Soviets began restricting passage to and from East Berlin, harrassing and detaining diplomats, and shutting off traffic through other checkpoints. The wall had been completed a scant two months before.

The Soviets had to erect barriers and barbed wire, poles that would stop speeding East Germans from crashing through to freedom. All that ever stood on the US side was this humble wooden shack.

[Giant, life-sized billboards like these run a good 100 meters in all directions away from Checkpoint Charlie, telling it story.]

Good Riddance: This picture of a picture shows the wall finally being torn down, and in its place a two-row brick line that marks where the wall once stood, which runs uninterrupted along, across and through modern united Berlin - so that noone forgets.

My sneaks, and the marker found at various points along its length: "Berliner Mauer 1961-1989."

This one brought me to tears, and it always will.

"Nowhere else is the division of east and west more visible than at Checkpoint Charlie. Here, a single wall cut through an entire city. And it was here that the people of the United States of America bore testimony, in impressive fashion, to their unconditional commitment to fundamental values such as human rights, democracy and freedom. Over the 28 years of its existence, Checkpoint Charlie was visited by many statesmen, giving the people hope that their wish for freedom and peace would be fulfilled.
It was here that Ronald Reagan realised the scale of the situation and resolved to tear down the Iron Curtain."

That's damn right.

I didn't think they'd mention the Gipper . . . but they did. History is having its say, and the din of the Anti-Reagan ideologues is about as audible now as a mosquito's wings flapping. This bit makes me misty-eyed because it contains gratitude. Which is all we've ever asked for.

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