Reagan Visit Memories - 1987
I am the son of a US Air Force officer and lived in Germany for six years - from 1981 through 1987. The last 3 years of that time, my father was stationed at Tempelhof and I lived in West BERLIN, just a short walk from what is now the site of the Allied Museum. My father was the Director of Public Relations for the Air Force in West BERLIN, so he was very involved in arranging the logistics and press for President Regan's visit in the summer of 1987. My sister and I were both very excited to hear the news of our President visiting to celebrate BERLIN's 750th Anniversary. As plans were being made, I learned of a celebration at Tempelhof to honor BERLIN's Anniversary that was to be hosted by President and Mrs. Reagan. My father mentioned to me that they were looking for some local talent to perform during the event. As a singer, I jumped at the chance to audition! I was among hundreds who showed up, and one of a handful of singers selected to perform. I was elated. At that moment, I had no idea how memorable that entire day would be.
President Reagan gave his speech to a packed crowd of Germans and Americans right at the wall near the Brandenburg Gate. I was not able to go, as I was at a sound check with Horst Jankowski and the RIAS Orchestra at Tempelhof, but my sister Linda was near the very front. She said that Nancy Reagan waved at her and that many on the East side of the wall were hanging out of windows trying to hear and see. Once the President's speech began, the hall at Tempelhof where we were rehearsing went quiet and some televisions near the press rooms were on. All of the performers and musicians nearby stopped to hear what he had to say. I was so excited that he was actually in BERLIN and proud that he spoke so eloquently. His voice was strong and filled with hope. I could see my sister on the television as they panned across the crowd - I wished that I could be there with her.
When he spoke the words "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.", my heart jumped with a strange mixture of excitement, joy and fear. I loved BERLIN and considered it my hometown. How wonderful would it be to have a free BERLIN where everyone could enjoy all that the city was and is? Wouldn't it be great if everyone could travel wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted. I thought of families reunited after years apart. But were these words that could start a conflict? Was tearing down the wall even really possible? These thoughts continued to ring in my head as I listened to the roar of the crowd clapping and cheering for the President's now famous words.
After his speech, President and Mrs. Reagan made a couple of stops to greet people elsewhere in the city, and then made their way to Tempelhof for the celebration. I was so nervous! Not only was my graduating class, the Class of 1987 going to be recognized by our President, but I was going to actually get to sing for him and all of his guests with Horst Jankowski and the RIAS Orchestra! I was afraid I might not be able to do it. But I did. I stood on stage with the orchestra as the President and Mrs. Reagan arrived and welcomed their guests. I sang "Summertime" from Porgy & Bess as well as "The Greatest Love of All" originally sung by Whitney Houston. That's when the President recognized our class and I watched as my friends from school stood together across the hall on another stage as he addressed them. To be honest, I was so excited that I don't even remember what he said.
At the end, just as President and Mrs. Reagan were leaving, I sang "Wochenends und Sonnenschein" ("Happy Days are Here Again"). Little did I know how appropriate that song selection was. Later that night, my friends and I celebrated and talked a lot about everything that had happened. We seemed to keep coming back to one question. Could the wall really come down during our lifetimes? This was the question that President Regan's speech put on everyones' minds. Our answer - probably not. We didn't believe that it would happen until much, much later - and that we may never see it in our lives. Just 2 years later - Gorbachev did exactly as our President had asked. We were overjoyed and amazed.
Years later, on the day that President Reagan died, I was remembering the summer of 1987 in BERLIN and his famous words. I saw footage of his speech on CNN and there was my sister, right up front! At the time we knew it was something special to be there and be part of it all in our own way. What an impact Reagan's words and his life have had on me, my family and friends, and millions of others throughout the world. But nowhere more than BERLIN.
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