WITNESS: Strangers united in a euphoric moment
Douglas Hamilton was senior correspondent in France when he was sent to East Berlin in November 1989 on assignment since he is a German speaker with experience in then-West Germany. He is currently a correspondent in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
By Douglas Hamilton
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Everyone had wanted it but no-one had predicted it, and when it happened no one could quite believe it.
East Germany had stunned itself and the world by suddenly letting its people cross the Wall to the West.
There was great shock, then great joy that night. The mood was electric, then ecstatic, then something more.
It became one of those unique moments of what I can only call mutual human recognition, when complete strangers could embrace each other in the chaotic, jostling, delirious crowds.
It was impossible to resist the euphoria and carry on coolly as the objective reporter. The initial sense of utter disbelief, followed by the realization of hope suddenly triumphant, was too powerful. Everyone was swept along.
East Berliners came home intoxicated that night, although they hadn't been drinking. Many clutched bunches of bananas, and I remember being told these were rare and expensive in the East, and probably all they could afford to fetch from West Berlin.
It wasn't until later that I realized their precious bananas were a totem of proof, in case it all turned out to be a dream. Continued...