Today is Remembrance Sunday in the UK. The Queen, members of the Royal family and others laid wreaths at the Cenotaph. The Tower of London has a magnificent display of 888,246 ceramic poppies. It is breathtaking to see pictures of it. I am sure it is overwhelming in person. Starting Wednesday, 8,000 volunteers will start taking them up and the poppies will be on a tour until 2018. If you have a chance to see them, whether in person or just in pictures, it is a site not soon forgotten.
Here in America, Tuesday, November 11, will mark our Veterans' Day. Through the years there have been so many, many people who've lost their lives fighting for our freedom. I have members of my family that have been in different branches of service. In fact, my father and my mothers' brother were on the same ship to Korea and did not know it for many years. This, of course, was before they actually were my father and uncle! My ex-husband served in the Army for 20 years, all of which I was with him. We must also remember the families of these services members, as they also served our country. Military life is hard, even under the best of circumstances.
Today, November 9, also marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. This is a part of history that I was privileged to be a part of. My ex-husband, myself and most of our children lived in Berlin for 6 years. Some of the years were lived inside of the Wall, some lived after the Wall fell. As strange as it may sound, it was never noticeable that life in Berlin, prior to the fall, was any different from anywhere else. Yes, their was a wall around us, but there was so much life in that city, that unless you actually were near the Wall, you could remain oblivious.
The entire city of Berlin was not all enclosed, only the West section. The East section was run by the Russians, the West by the Four Powers, each having their own section. The Wall was actually two different walls, one on the Russian side, one on our side. Both walls were topped with barbed wire. In between the two walls were land mines. Yes, you read that right, land mines. On both perspective sides there were guard towers. Our guard towers had soldiers keeping watch, so did theirs. The difference? Our guards tried to help get the fleeing people to our side safely. Theirs tried to kill the fleeing people. Many a time did we hear gun fire and knew someone was trying to escape to the West. Some made it, others didn't.
The night the Wall fell was really a glitch, a misunderstanding. But it was a night like no other. Myself, along with 2 friends, made our way down to Checkpoint Charlie. Checkpoint Charlie was where all people went through to get from West to East or East to West. When we made it to the checkpoint, there was already a mob of people, on both sides of the checkpoint. As more and more people on our side arrived, the crowd was pushed forward, coming very close to the East side. All at once, the East side had twice the amount of guards, all linking arms and all with guns pointed at us. Due to the crowd pushing and shoving, my friends and I were getting separated. I was pushed forward at a very fast rate. With one great shove, I was thrown into the East side and I couldn't back up. Three guards then pulled me, trying to take me with them. My friends spotted this and started pulling me the other way, shouting that I was American and they couldn't do this. Trust me when I say I know how the poor taffy feels in a taffy pull!! My friends, along with other strangers, finally pulled me back to safety and we decided we would try and make it to Brandenburg Gate.
By the time we reached Brandenburg, news crews were already present. We made our way through the crowd and could almost touch the Wall. It was then we realized who was directly in front of us: Tom Brokaw!! I must say he was a very nice man. He talked with us as his crew were setting up the cameras and lights. As this was happening, Eastern guards were mounting their side of the Wall and aiming guns and water cannons at us! They started to spray us with water (which is NOT like running in a sprinkler! ), as they thought it would force us to leave. It didn't work and in time they stopped. My friends and I stayed while Mr. Brokaw reported. We were so close to him, we were reading the teleprompter as he was! It was truly a night to remember.
In the following days and weeks, so many changes happened, some very fast. I remember walking with my girls down to where the closest opening was in our neighborhood. We walked from our side, over plywood that acted as safe passage, to the East of Berlin. What struck me was how it all was the same . I don't mean financially, as the East was very poor. But the people? They were amazing! They laughed and talked and hugged us. Many times all that was said by us was "Welcome!" and they would say "Thank you!". The guards came across from their towers and would talk and laugh with our guards. Many of them shared cigarettes and food. All were trying to understand why there had been a Wall.
I have never had the chance to go back to Berlin. Looking at pictures of how it has changed over the years always makes me very emotional. There were so many, many people that suffered over the years. Many families became separated from each other, some never seeing each other again. It seems all so senseless.
Many festivities are going on in Berlin this week. My favourite is the white balloons that go along the path where the Wall stood. Singers, former mayors and Presidents from countries that made up the Four Powers are there. It is a time for remembrance, of what was and what will be.
How many people in the world have been touched by war? Families, soldiers, generations. All have felt the effects. While remembering them all, we must also not forget that remembering should not be only on a certain day. We must always remember. We must teach our children, and our grandchildren, what war does. War touches everyone in some way.
Today, stop and remember them all, from all the wars and conflicts. Remember their families, their friends.
All my love goes out to them all, everywhere, no matter who they are or what country they are in. We must remember so we can stop it happening ever again. For our children and for all generations to come.
Wishing you love and peace.
Until next time,
Note: For all of you wearing a Poppy for Remembrance Day or for Veterans' Day: Make sure your leaf is pointing to the place the 11 would be on the clock. It symbolizes 11th hour,11th day, 11th month.