Tens of thousands showed up at the site of the Berlin Wall today to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the infamous wall's destruction and cheer former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev for his role in the wall's collapse.
"Gorby! Gorby!" Berliners chanted as he was escorted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel across the Bornholmer Strasse bridge, which was the first crossing to open. Merkel, who grew up in East Berlin, first crossed that bridge on Nov. 9, 1989 along with thousands of others who streamed into West Berlin for the first time in 28 years.
"You made this possible," Merkel told Gorbachev during ceremonies marking the end of the wall. "You courageously let things happen, and that was much more than we could expect."
Merkel is hosting a celebration that is attracting toursts, as well as leaders, from around the world. The leaders of all 27 European Union countries and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev are expected for the event.
One of the highlights of the day was having former Poland's former pro-democracy leader Lech Welesa initiate a chain reaction that led to the toppling of 1,000 massive foam dominoes placed along the route of the now vanished wall.
President Obama paid tribute to the moment in a video message that was introduced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying it sent a message of hope to "those who believe, even in the face of cynicism and doubt and oppression, that walls can truly come down."
The fall of the wall two decades ago was an historic step which eventually led to the end of the communist regime in East Germany and the beginning of reunification of Germany after decades of division. It is also credited with contributing the end of the Cold War.
At the time, however, it was a thrilling moment for Germans.
"Today it is just so important for all people and for the younger people," Eva Teske, a 54-year-old Berliner said as she remembered with tears in her eyes the day the wall came down. "It was such a feeling you can't put in words."
"It is a very special day and it is a very special place and we had to be here," Teske added as she stood among tens of thousands of celebrants from around the world in front of the Brandenburg Gate, the most visible symbol for the division of the city of Berlin.
"It's just one more party," Gautier Sessy, a 21-year-old French student, told ABC News. He then noted the significance of the day's events and added, "I'll probably tell my children I was here."
Near the Brandenburg Gate, which for nearly three decades stood just behind the wall in no man's land, Dieter Mohnka, 74, and his wife Helga, 71, shared a bowl of French fries and recalled the night the wall was opened.
"We were shocked when we heard that announced, simply astounded," said Helga. "The next morning we went straight to visit my aunt in the West."
Dieter, a high school teacher at the time, said he had long been fascinated with West Germany.
"I was born in East Germany. I went to school in East Germany. I was supposed to teach the kids about the wonderfulness of the East, when I was secretly watching TV from the West," he said.
Loud music thumped from speakers at the Brandenburg Gate, and at the city's main train station sets of holograms were on display showing streets of Berlin 20 years ago, a potent reminder of things have changed.