Twenty years ago today, the Berlin Wall fell. East Germans kept away from loved ones for 28 years swarmed past the wall's suddenly unguarded checkpoints. An Orange County doctor was living in Germany at the time.
The East German government dealt with civil unrest for weeks. Finally, it suddenly announced that East Germans could visit West Germany.
An East German official announced that East Germans would now have the freedom to travel outside the country, effective immediately.
Crowds swarmed the Berlin Wall checkpoints, chanting and honking car horns. Some people climbed on top of the wall. Others cried, overcome with the emotion of being free to visit family and friends for the first time in nearly three decades.
Doctor Tareg Bey watched all of this unfold on TV. Bey is the director of International Emergency Medicine at UCI Medical Center in Orange. The German native was living in Munich when the wall fell.
"There were lines and lines of people coming with Eastern Bloc-built cars, clogging up the streets and having tents in the parks because they thought they could never go back and they wanted to be there," Bey said. "So they left in huge numbers. They were like almost internal displaced people."
Bey says they were desperate and scared that the wall might close again. But it didn’t. Less than a year later, Germany was officially reunified.
It today still deals with some issues in the wake of reunification – but it is still one.