Al Bloom, a former German exchange student in Missouri and a close friend of the Cronan family, accompanied us in Germany to translate and to keep us Missourians out of trouble. Al also showed us around their colorfully decorated, old German town. Alís mother and some helpers prepared a great meal, including light wine for all, including our young people. We enjoyed visiting in two languages. Our overnight accommodations in town were at a "pension," where lodging meant breakfast was provided.
We saw new signs on posts and buildings warning, "Beware of August 13th" and "The Wall Must Go Down on August l3." I asked and learned that our bus to the other half of Berlin would travel as usual, on that day, Monday, August 13. If anything unusual happened that day, we didnít know it because we were quite busy all day.
Everyone in our group had his bus ticket for the day to go through Checkpoint Charlie, the zig-zag way to the other Berlin. The ticket was for a different bus, but we were all right because our guide would speak in both English and French. A fellow circulated through the bus saying, "No photos will be permitted."
Then with no warning, he said, "Everybody show all of your money - thatís right, show me all of your cash and paper money." He made it sound like a hold-up. We obeyed! The man pondered. He chose three men, including my husband, and made them fork over every cent except travelerís checks! The bus engine started. The man was just playing thief. He returned Chubís money, laughing, but it wasnít very funny to us. He then announced, "There are to be no photographs made of the bunker where Hitler died." When we were near that bunker, he said it just looked like an ugly mound of earth, all cameras clicked.
Many women and a few men looked out of windows and waved anything of bright colors to attract us bus passengers. It was their fun for the day - their happy time. When the city was divided, suddenly by the Berlin Wall, families were separated, people lost their neighbors, friends, siblings, jobs, relatives, sweethearts, churches and business partners. It caused endless troubles that we can hardly imagine.
As our bus passed the worst part of devastated Berlin, we saw storefronts with false displays, to make visitors think it was all replaced and operating naturally. However signs said, "Closed Today." Huge piles of destroyed structures - homes, stores, everything, was still being hauled away in huge trucks; our teenage children would never forget the tragedy that was East Berlin this day. We returned through Checkpoint Charlie and to the slowly healing part of Berlin.
Our teens were silent for a very long time.
We saw evidence of the hardships experienced by American soldiers, our neighbors and friends, our soldiers who gave their lives.
Near our parked van, we walked quietly, slowly, through a lovely park toward our ride back to our rented van. Walt and Nancy stayed by my side. Silence was important for a while. Walt finally asked, "Mom, why canĻt people just get along?"