My eyes could see it, my ears heard it, but my heart couldn't believe it. I was born within these walls, listening to the stories of the past freedom of crossing and the hopes of reuniting with loved ones. There was little or no sign to warn me - any of us - of this happening. But it was happening. There were people shouting in the streets. It was announced over the radio that we could cross.I didn’t hear it, but we flowed along with the multitude to a checkpoint, hand in hand my mother and I. While she was delighted, I was afraid. The world I knew was collapsing, and an unknown world awaited us outside. A world of people not born within walls.

"Mom, let's go home and get out of trouble, please!" I shouted at the top of my lungs because there was such turmoil that I couldn't even hear my own thoughts. I wanted to leave, but she turned down to look at me, pressed my hand harder, and said, "We are going home. I can't wait to see my mom. You’ll finally meet your grandma."

My grandma... She sends a letter almost every day. I have even seen some pictures, but I could only imagine her soft embrace. Other friends have their grandmas and grandpas within the wall. Some others like me have never met them. On her birthdays and special days, I've seen my mom crying softly over my grandma's letters. She would say something like “we have to accept that we can't see each other, but we can hope that those days will be over.” But that day, I didn't see her softly accepting anything. That day I saw my mom determined and moving forward.

Until we came to a stop. The marching ceased because apparently people were not being let go to the other side. There were rumors of people saying that the gate officers had not heard the news. The crowd demanded that they tune in to the radio, where the communist representative of East Germany just said that the visas for crossing were to be made “effective immediately, without delay.” Later, I found that people were being told to go home at the gate. But that message did not get through the crowd. We were only pushing forward, no one was backing up. No one was dissuaded. I grew a bit excited with everyone else, and the fear started to go away. People were euphoric, some chanting “Tor auf! Open the gate.” We didn’t move for what seemed like forever. What was going on, people started to ask. Others responded, "we just have to wait our turn, they are already crossing," but we couldn’t tell if that was true or not. People kept pushing, trying to get a better understanding, asking their neighbors, passing down and up the communications in the most chaotic way.

Suddenly, we were able to take two steps forward. Then stopped. My heart started beating faster when we gave two more steps, then stopped, then two more, then three and four and five and six steps, stopped for a couple more seconds. Until there were no stops, we started walking at a slow but steady pace. We were advancing towards the gate, the gate that would let some people from the outside in but never people from the inside out. My mom was shouting and celebrating already; she was looking to the night sky almost like praying, but still holding my hand firmly. And when we were about to cross the gate, she turned to look at me and said: "you are living history. You are going to do great things!." And now I know how much fear she had held in her heart, about my future. She knew the world and how big and prosperous it could be. We did not live badly, but she knew that I wouldn't have the opportunities she dreamed of for me. In that moment, she freed herself from that fear.

We crossed the gate. A completely new city unfolded before me, with places I had never seen. In my mom’s eyes, I could see recognition; these were streets she had walked in; she knew exactly where to turn and where to go as if not a day had passed since she last walked these streets. The crowd was moving now more chaotically, not in a straight line anymore so we were getting in the way of one another trying to get to the right addresses. People were meeting and hugging in the streets. Those from outside the walls were also flowing to the streets, some with flowers, bottles of wine, and champagne, all ecstatic. It was crazy how many people could fit in the streets and still allow for movement. There were others just leaning out of their windows, waving, shouting in celebration and cheering us up on the way.

I felt like we were crossing the whole city. I had no clue how long we would have to walk and didn’t dare ask my mom. And then, from a block away, I recognized the house from the pictures and I realized we had arrived. My mom started to walk faster, and some steps away from the house, she let go of my hand. I kept going, confused, feeling insecure, but then I realized she was there - my grandma - standing outside waiting patiently for my mom. They hugged, and I stared at their long-awaited embrace.

That’s when I felt like I was in a dream and even doubted that it could actually be happening. My brain wasn't thinking straight, if at all.. My feeling was one of levitating until the two of them interrupted their embrace to let me in. They pulled me from my dream and hugged me too. The three of us, now free women, reunited women, with a completely new life ahead of us.

Overnight... their lives had changed some 30 years ago, as an unexplained wall was built within hours separating two sides of one big and courageous city. And just as quickly as it was built, it fell even more quickly. The next day, we were all helping tear the wall down to pieces. And we continue doing that metaphorically each day of our lives, fighting for justice and freedom so no one will have to be born within walls again. We can all contribute with one less brick to the wall.


Cover image credits:

Birds rested on barbed wire atop the Berlin Wall by Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Shutterstock