10 November 1989

Berlin, Germany

I arrived in Berlin in October 1989 to do research for my doctoral dissertation. Just over a month later, the Berlin Wall fell. I was very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. Here are a few pictures by me and of me at and on the Wall.

On the Wall After climbing onto the Wall in front of the Brandenburg Gate, I happened to see someone down on the ground that I knew from the university where I was doing my research. Since I still knew maybe only about a dozen people in all of Berlin at this time, the odds of me finding an acquaintance in the mass of literally tens of thousands of people gathered at the Wall were pretty astromonical, but I lucked out again. I handed my camera down to her, posed for this picture, and for a couple months this was the only visual proof I had that I had stood on the Wall the day it fell. (The camera I had then was a point and shoot of the cheapest kind--it's a wonder any of these pictures turned out at all.)
A few months later, though, I was comparing pictures with another American student studying in Berlin, and found myself in this picture he had taken. It gives a better idea of the size of the crowd up there and the intensity of the television lights. Surprisingly, to the best of my knowledge, no one was seriously injured falling off of the Wall that night. It was about eight feet high here at the Brandenburg Gate. Wide shot
Close-up Here's a close-up from the same picture. The folks on their hands and knees in front of me are chipping away at the concrete with hammers and chisels. I got one of the first pieces they managed to break off.
Here's a shot I took of the chisellers. Chipping
Big hammer A little while later someone showed up with a much bigger hammer. You can see concrete chips flying off and raining down on the folks below.
When they started pulling the reinforcing rods out of the Wall I figured it might be a good time to start thinking about getting back down. Plus this was my last picture on the only roll of film I had with me--much to my regret as I shortly thereafter missed what would surely have been a Pulitzer-prize winning photo. On the ground, directly below my feet, I noticed a boy about four years old. As the crowd formed a semi-circle around him, he walked up to the Wall, pulled down his pants, and calmly peed on the wall. I had the perfect angle to capture on film exaclty what we were all feeling that night, but missed it. So always remember to carry an extra roll of film. Reinforcing rods
Memorial This is the most poignant picture I took. It was a couple of weeks later and people had already managed to chisel fairly large holes in the Wall--many big enough to walk through. In the background people are celebrating on top of a guard tower where armed East German soldiers used to guard the border. In the foreground is a memorial to the last victim gunned down trying to cross the Wall. If you can't read the date, it's 06 February 1989--just nine months and three days before the Wall fell. Today at this site there is no Wall, no guard tower, and no memorial (although there are plans to construct a new memorial to all of the Wall's victims nearby).

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