Missing Man

German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the Fall of the Berlin Wall a quarter of a century ago as “a miracle”.

(Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday an irrepressible yearning for freedom brought the Berlin Wall tumbling down 25 years ago and called it a “miracle” that the Cold War barrier was breached without a shot being fired.

Speaking on the eve of Sunday’s celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s collapse, Merkel said Germany would always be grateful for the courage of East Germans who took to the streets to protest the Communist dictatorship.


The BBC dwells on the festivities marking the event, saying “concerts and exhibitions are being staged in the city … white balloons marking a stretch of the wall will be released to symbolise its disappearance,” like a magic trick happened that night a quarter century ago. Frauke Lüpke-Narberhaus, a reporter for Spiegel Online, who was born in 1983, sets down her memories of the event; she remembers two young East German soccer players who stayed at her family home before reunification and their surprise at eating Nutella.

But none of these articles  mentions “Ronald Reagan” nor for that matter  Margaret Thatcher or Pope John Paul.

Time writes “more than one million people are expected to visit Berlin this weekend as the German city celebrates the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, according to tourist organization Visit Berlin.”  They’ll see Mikahael Gorbachev, who will be a the ceremonies. But of Reagan there is no mention.

The Independent begins on contemporary note “today marks the 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and Google has marked the occasion with a video Doodle.” The Doodle shows the Brandenberg Gate, but still no Reagan, Thatcher or Pope John Paul. It takes the Guardian to mention Lech Walesa,  in one sentence, merely to note that he will attend the event.

And finally there’s the statement of president Obama.


On behalf of the American people, I join our German friends and allies in marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Like many Americans, I will never forget the scenes of East Berliners courageously taking to the streets, pushing past the guards and tearing down the wall that for so long had separated them from family and friends and the free world. Their triumph that night was a tribute to all those who had lost their lives over the decades trying to escape to freedom. It was a testament to the brave service of generations of West Germans, Americans and our fellow allies who stood shoulder to shoulder through a long Cold War. And it was a reminder that walls of concrete and barbed wire are ultimately no match for the will of ordinary men and women who are determined to live free.

He added on Twitter, “Walls of concrete and barbed wire are ultimately no match for the will of ordinary men and women. — President Obama”.  There’s two “I”‘s and a “president Obama” but no Ronald Reagan.

If the media is trying its level best to avoid talking about what the fall of the Berlin Wall was about and how it came to be, then they’re doing a good job.  We are left with the bare event and its consequences.  But of song and lay there is none, for the bards have fallen silent on the subject.  Not that the heroes of old mind. Ronald Reagan once said “there is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit”.  If one cares not for glory or tale, the deed is enough.


Yet some things still remain in their absence. For example there is in Air Force tradition of the Missing Man Formation. A finger four “flown with the second element leader position conspicuously empty … the flight approaches from the south, preferably near sundown, and one of the aircraft will suddenly split off to the west, flying into the sunset.”

In the Missing Man it’s not the aircraft we see that are important, but the one we can’t see. This is the poem that is traditionally associated with the ceremony.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

And they soar far aloft, chasing the shouting wind, too far for even memory or  forgetfulness to mar.

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