11/10/09: Marietta Daily Journal: Marietta woman reflects on fall of the Berlin Wall

MARIETTA – For 34-year-old Manuela Shepherd, living in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall came with discomforts one learned to live with – like a 13-year wait to get a new car. After the wall fell, things were noticeably different.

“Suddenly, new shops were opening and the shops were cleaner and quieter – mirrors in the food aisles,” she said. “Everything was just nicer.”

Manuela Shepherd grew up in the former East Germany and was 13 years old when the wall fell. She came and settled in the U.S. in 2001 and married Jason Shepherd five years ago.

On Monday, the Marietta couple celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

In 1961 Communist East Germany erected the concrete wall to prevent East Germans from fleeing into the capitalist enclave of West Germany. The wall fell on Nov. 9, 1989, after weeks of civil unrest. It signified the end of the Cold War.

Like many people, Manuela Shepherd remembered watching the wall come down on television at home in Cottbus, Germany, about 30 minutes outside Berlin. Her grandfather was a city official who belonged to the Socialist Unity Party of Germany.

When the West German government gave East Germans goodwill “greeting money,” Manuela Shepherd remembered dashing off to buy new sneakers. However, the fall of the wall, and the politics associated with the international event, didn’t hold special meaning to a teenager who grew up in comfortable home with a close-knit family, she admits. It wasn’t until she matured and came to the U.S. on a work visa that the significance of the Berlin Wall became clear.

“I kind of realize it more now being older than being 13,” said Manuela Shepherd, a private school teacher.

Jason Shepherd, 33, said he came to appreciate being an American even more after meeting his wife.

“When we started dating, her mindset was if she had a red shirt, she didn’t need another red shirt,” he said. “Because why waste the space? You can only use one red shirt.”

The couple has a piece of the Berlin Wall on their mantle. Another slab of the Berlin Wall, on loan from former state Sen. Chuck Clay, whose grandfather commanded the Berlin Airlift, is on display near Kennesaw State University’s social sciences building.

by Marcus E. Howard