Observing the wall: a look back in time

The Berlin Wall: A Reminder


Green grass. Benches. Unique art display. Students passing by. Tours being given. Chatter about the day. Plans being made. Homework being done. Sun shining. Parrots squawking. Peaceful air about the plaza. All of these things could be found nearly anywhere on campus. But this is not anywhere. This is at Liberty Plaza, between Memorial lawn and Beckman hall, a place we all pass every single day. It may mean nothing to you here in Liberty Plaza but to so many in Berlin it was a constant reminder of the war around them.

The Berlin Wall is a symbol of separation for the people in Berlin. East and West Berlin were separated on August 13, 1961. “The official purpose of this Berlin Wall was to keep Western “fascists” from entering East Germany and undermining the socialist state, but it primarily served the objective of stemming mass defections from East to West” this comes from the History Channel.  Most of the professional work force defected to West Berlin, leaving the East with very few doctors, lawyers, and businessmen.  The wall began as barbed wire but within a few days the makings of concrete slabs were starting to be put up. By the time the wall came down it had been remade three times, the final rendition of the wall is the most well-known.

When the wall was complete it had not one but two walls, as well as a death strip; complete with sporadic land mines, dogs, as well as guards instructed to shoot anyone trying to escape on the spot. Even with all these guards in place, some managed to sneak by. Around 5,000 people were able to escape the wall and cross to the other side. They did this by either driving through the wall and making a run for it, tunnels were made, hot air balloons flown, some people even scaled and then jumped off of buildings to cross over the wall. However more than 170 people were not as fortunate and lost their lives trying to cross over the Berlin Wall.

On November 9, 1989 there was an announcement made by the spokesperson for the East Berlin Communist party that the city’s relations were changing and passage through the wall would be allowed as of midnight. The crowds erupted and went to the wall, they all chanted, “Tor Auf” meaning “open the gate”. The wall came down in pieces from then until the official opening of the border was complete on October 3, 1990, nearly a year after the wall began coming down.

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–My eyes wide open I see the wall, the grass, the lily pond, the students passing by.

I close my eyes and suddenly the world around me is angry, sad, and scared of the future.

I open my eyes again and return to the present day where the skies are blue, the sun is out, and people are laughing.

Closed again the world is dim and dark, unhappiness brooding from every corner.–

The world we live in today, in the US, in California, at Chapman, is much different that the world the Berlin Wall lived in. In Berlin the decisions didn’t involve when you should get Starbucks. Berlin’s conflicts were much more important than that of an average student’s. During the time of the Berlin Wall there were food shortages, nearly one quarter of the housing had been destroyed, and there were not many opportunities for jobs. During the time of the Cold War there were many places experiencing hardships, but nothing compared to an entire city being split in half, each side cut off from one another.

At Chapman University we are fortunate enough to have an opportunity to gain an education, to live where we do without the threat of conflict around the corner. We as students take advantage of this daily, yet we fail to see how fortunate we are in our everyday lives. One way we do this is by walking around the wall. A simple task that most do not realize they are doing. The pathways on either side of the wall allow us to walk around the wall to continue on our way. This was not the case for the people in Berlin. They could not just “walk around” the wall like we do so freely. It amazes me the things we do without realizing their impact. The fact that forty years ago the wall in our Liberty Plaza was used to separate a city and now stands as a reminder to us.

A reminder to never forget. To never take things for granted. To never let a day pass by that is not lived to the fullest.

All Photos By Sarah Walling



My Theory of Writing about Place:

My theory is to look around at what you see. Then, to take what you see and find the story behind it. To tell the story, real or imaginary, so that everyone can see the beauty, the ugly, the sad, the happy, the whatever about your place. The purpose of doing this is to understand what surrounds you, to know why it is there in the first place. In my theory I want to be able to find my “home” in wherever I am, to be able to find something I can connect to. As said by Lailah Gifty Akita, “Take a great adventure to a place, learn the rich history and make your own observation about the place”. I like this because it allows anyone to decide what a place means to them after they find what it means to others.




I chose this photo because it shows a big picture. It shows all of the wall and most of the plaza while also showing the people walking by. I want to show that we walk by this everyday but do we really see it. I want people to realize we are seeing it but not seeing it.


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