BETTINA Mehnert was living in Hawaii when the Berlin Wall came down 10 years ago. She regretted not witnessing the destruction of the imposing concrete structure, which separated her family for decades.
Little did she know, however, that the wall would come to her.
Mehnert, a German citizen who works at Architects Hawaii, designed the setting for a 3-ton chunk of the Berlin Wall that now stands at Honolulu Community College. The design came naturally to her.
"I was the one who knew the emotions that were attached to this wall," said Mehnert. Most German families had members on both sides of it. "I tried to make that come across to other people."
About 300 people celebrated the 10th anniversary of the wall's demise yesterday at a ceremony next to the college's "Berlin Wall Freedom Monument."
John (Rick) Ziegler, a history professor at the college, said the idea for the monument came nine years ago from student Warren Okuma. They approached the German consulate general here, and the message eventually reached the Berlin government, which approved the request. The German Benevolent Society of Honolulu paid transportation costs, and other businesses provided free services.
"I knew once we had a piece of the wall committed, the community would join us," Ziegler said. It was dedicated in February 1992.
It's one of only three such wall monuments in the United States, Mehnert said. One is at the Reagan Library in California; another, at Westminster College in Missouri, where Winston Churchill gave his famous "Iron Curtain" speech.
The angle of the wall at the college is precise. The barren back side faces directly east -- the empty area behind it would have been the "death strip" that former East Germans under communist rule could not enter. The front side of the wall faces directly west, and colorful graffiti still covers the former West German side. Four-foot portions of wall have been added to each side of the original wall.
"For me it's an ending of a wrongdoing," said Kehaulani Rezentes, student government president. "The wall should not have been built. Segregation should not be practiced. Students can be proud that it doesn't exist here."