Kennedy, Berlin linked to daughter’s birth, life

My first child, Krista, was born on the night John F. Kennedy was elected president – November 9, 1960.  The election itself was actually the 8th, but returns were not final until the wee hours of the morning. 

Two decades later as a journalist, she spent most of the 1980’s in Berlin – a city that kept Kennedy’s memory alive like no other because of his response to Berlin as the barbed wire beginnings of the wall closed around it in August of 1961.

Krista wrote an Op Ed piece for the New York Times when the Berlin Wall hit the quarter-century mark in 1986.  By that time the Wall was 12 feet high, with a no man’s land in between, scattered with tank traps, its’ every inch monitored by men with binoculars and guns. 

On her 29th birthday, November 9 of 1989, she stepped off an airplane in Oklahoma City and discovered that during her flight from Berlin to Oklahoma, the wall had opened up.

Never believing she would see the Wall come down in her lifetime, she was stunned to hear the news.  “The suddenness of the Wall’s fall utterly defied the imagination of everyone living closest to it.”

A friend and colleague, John Tagliabue of the New York Times, told her he had spent that evening watching television in a hotel room in Warsaw with the West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who was as stupefied by the turn of events as anyone else.

Krista never imagined that one day she could walk across a bridge that had separated her by less than a mile from an East German family with whom she was close and from whom she had been separated by an impassable border zone throughout their friendship.

As Krista reflected on the celebration that took place in Berlin this year - again on her birthday - she wrote, “ I think I’ve had enough historically momentous birthdays for a lifetime, but I hold these memories as a reminder that there is at any given moment much we don’t see, and more change possible than we can begin to imagine.  I draw caution as well as hope from the fact that history tends to surprise us.”

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