It is late October 1989, a week after the unexpected shakeup provided by California's destructive Loma Prieta earthquake. The USSR remains in control of much of Eastern Europe, the Berlin Wall separates the citizens of East and West Germany with barbed wire, and the superpowers' nuclear weapons remain targeted at each other's cities. Nelson Mandela waits in his cell in Cape Town's Victor Verster prison. The NASDAQ has never exceeded 500, and no one has heard of the world-wide-web. Thirty-five thousand soldiers and family members are based at the Fort Ord military base in Seaside, California.

As the Monterey Bay community is absorbed by earthquake repairs, more dramatic seismic shifts are about to occur in the Monterey Bay area and in the world.

On November 9, a normal Thursday, Communist-controlled East Germany suddenly announces the relaxing of checkpoints between East and West Germany. Tens of thousands of East Germans rush to the Berlin Wall, where the vastly outnumbered border guards are forced to open access points and allow them through. They are greeted with open arms by West Germans on the other side. The next day, televisions worldwide broadcast astonishing images: thousands of celebrating East and West Germans beginning to tear down the Berlin Wall.

Eight days later in Czechoslovakia, a peaceful student demonstration in Prague is severely beaten back by the communist riot police. This sparks a revolution aimed at overthrowing the communist government. Within three days, the number of peaceful protesters assembled in Prague swells to an estimated half-million. In Lithuania on January 11, a massive demonstration in favor of independence brings 200,000 people into the streets. Four days later in East Germany, thousands storm the Berlin headquarters of the Stasi, East Germany's secret police and intelligence organization, in an attempt to view their records.

An era is coming to a close.

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