BUFFALO, N.Y., Nov. 7 (UPI) -- So much of the Cold War was rendered in concrete; missile silos, airstrips and the 96 miles of 12-feet high barriers surrounding West Berlin.
The Berlin Wall, standing since 1961 to keep East Germans from freedom but daily reminding them of that freedom, was decommissioned by civilians with hammers, beginning the night of Nov. 9, 1989.
Seven months later, East Germany officially began demolishing what remained of it. That big night in November was preceded, days earlier, by a demand to end travel restrictions from East Germany, a demand by a half million East Germans filling the Alexanderplatz, a public square in East Berlin.
On the afternoon of November 9, the East German government announced the lifting of restrictions to crossing the border to West Germany, separated since World War II, including those in West Berlin, that isolated fragment of territory surrounded by Communism. By nightfall, the party was on, with East Germans pouring over the border to the joyful welcome of West Berliners. The greeters had the foresight to bring champagne, flowers and sledgehammers, and while young Germans, east and west, danced together atop the wall, others dedicated themselves to smashing the barrier, the wall painted with graffiti galore of the western side.
It was a heady and memorable night, a show of peace, love and understanding, coming only five months after pro-democracy supporters were mowed down by the hundreds in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
With the gradual demolition of the wall came new border crossings, and more welcome parties on the western side. By Oct. 3, 1990, East Germany was history, as was much of the wall, and the reunification of Germany was formally begun. That date is officially German Unity Day. Nov. 9 -- already freighted as the anniversary of moments in German history which include Kristallnacht, the violent 1938 pogrom against Germany's Jewish population -- is what the world remembers as the day the wall came down and the party, and the collapse of Soviet Communism, started.
The 25th anniversary of a peaceful revolution is coming, and Berlin will celebrate with another party; the Berlin State Orchestra, techno music from Leipsig's Paul Kalkbrenner and Peter Gabriel performing David Bowie's "Heroes" -- an anthem Bowie recorded in 1977, not far from the wall.
In place of concrete will be 8,000 illuminated balloons, waiting on a nine-mile path of the wall. When the Orchestra and chorus swings into the jubilant finale of Beethoven's 9th Symphony -- "Be embraced, you millions! This kiss is for the whole world!" -- the balloons will be triggered to float skyward.
You can't do that with concrete.