Students crumble mock Berlin Wall

Tuesday, November 10, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 9:59 a.m. CST, Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Westminster College freshman Emma Ray holds a piece of the mock Berlin Wall after a ceremony on Monday at Westminster College. Students constructed and then tore down the mock wall in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

FULTON — Fists pounded the drywall, cheering erupted and the whole crowd counted down the last 30 seconds before students tipped the wall over and moved to the other side.

Twenty years ago, the fall of the Berlin Wall paved the way for reunification in Germany, and today pieces of the fallen landmark exist throughout the world. Fulton's Westminster College, where Winston Churchill used the phrase "Iron Curtain" to describe a monumental division between the East and the West, is now home to an 11-foot-by-32-foot piece of the wall.

Because the college has such a strong tie to this piece of history, it hosted various events last week, such as showing a historical documentary, that led to the 20th anniversary celebration Monday night.

“We only know about it through history classes and things like that," said student Stefanie Kavanagh. "So I don’t know that it holds as much of a place in our hearts as it does for older generations, but I think we still respect it as an important piece of history.”

The main event of the celebration was the dismantling of the mock wall, built by Westminster's history club. Eight mock wall panels were constructed of wooden frames and drywall and were written on in graffiti by both the students and members of the community last week. Four of the panels were placed around the campus; one was put in front of the Fulton courthouse; one was loaned to a William Woods University art class and the other two were circulated through Fulton schools to be signed by students.

Under bright portable stage lights set up in front of The Winston Churchill Memorial and Library, Monday's event began with several guest speakers who explained a bit of the history of the divide between East and West Germany. Then, both the president and vice president of Westminster's history club spoke about how the German Embassy invited Westminster College to be a part of the celebration and how members used the embassy's design for the mock wall. The German Embassy also donated materials for building the wall.

“The tearing down was their idea, but the mock up was actually our own design," said Dr. Bernd Von Muenchow-Pohl, Director of the German Information Center. "The idea was to have something simple, easy to build, and easy materials to get anywhere in the U.S.”

The wall was placed just in front of a segment of the actual Berlin Wall on campus and also in front of a large statue of two body silhouettes that symbolized breaking through the wall. Westminster students were then invited to crowd the mock wall, which was covered in graffiti with sayings like "Born to be an American" and "Soldiers not professors give us freedom of speech."

After a short countdown, students pushed it to the ground and stomped across to the other side. 

"We’re part of the student government association here on campus, so to show that the students were behind this movement and that we were fully in support of the 20th anniversary celebration, we decided to come out and work and hang out,” said student Nicki Disalvo.

After the mock wall lay on the ground torn to pieces and its remains were strewn through the grassy field, pieces of the real Berlin Wall were passed out in gift boxes to anyone who wanted them, along with shirts and bags commemorating the cause.

Philip Mohr, a 21-year-old history major and vice president of the history club, could be seen walking through the destruction carrying his own part of the mock wall.

"Initially we hadn’t planned on it breaking all up like that. We were going to save the panels, but I think it’s a bit more appropriate that it's all busted up," Mohr said. "I'm definitely keeping it as a memento of this evening. I don’t have a piece of the real Berlin Wall, but I have a piece of the fake one, and I think it can symbolize pretty much the same thing for me.”

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