I remember seeing the images on the television, in newspapers, and in magazines. It was such an epic event. The Berlin Wall was coming down, something I never imagined would happen. As a child in the 50s and 60s, I remember bomb drills during elementary school.
Several of my friends had fallout shelters in their homes. I used to be afraid of bombs, of communists, of Khrushchev. I tried to understand how a wall could divide the city of Berlin into two very different places.
And then, in 1989, the unbelievable happened. I had just accepted an interim job teaching Senior English at Mooresville High School, and I wasn’t sure how to deal with such a momentous moment in history. Just a few lines from Stephen Vincent Benet’s John Brown’s Body made everything crystal clear and powerful.
Sometimes there comes a crack in Time itself.
Sometimes the earth is torn by something blind.
Sometimes an image that has stood so long
It seems implanted as the polar star
Is moved against an unfathomed force
That suddenly will not have it any more.
Those six lines provided so much focus for our classroom discussion and reflection… and awe.
My students were so engaged in this lesson, and I am sure some of these words and images continue to affect them today. I certainly hope my humanities moment enriched their lives and changed the way they thought about our world then and now.