One moment I remember very vividly occurred on Charles Bridge in Prague. On a very warm summer night, there must have been a thousand people on the bridge from end to end. The city was exploding with color and light, and the members of my group and I spoke with a number of people as we walked over the bridge above the black Vltava River. All of them expressed such happiness to be able to see us. Our presence was not only welcomed but celebrated.
One Czech fellow stopped us and asked if we were Americans. We said we were, and he talked for a long time about his new life. “Old life is bad; new life is very good. We never go back to the old life. Ever again.” I will never forget the enlightened look on his face as he said these words with a passion that came from being free after so many years of suppression.
It has been a long time since I’ve been to Germany, but all this attention to the 20th anniversary has made me long to go back again. I wonder what I will find there after all these years of freedom. I know from what I read and hear that Germany has come a long way from that time, but I wonder if anything could match the jubilation I saw in that summer of 1990.
I know I will go back someday, probably to bring my children to see the country of their ancestors. I do know as someone of German descent that I feel particularly happy when I see a map that shows the unified Germany, and I think all Americans want that country to keep moving forward away from a sometimes dark past into the bright light that only freedom can bring.