ABC's Stu Schutzman reports from New York: The great philosophical divide of the 20th century was crumbling before our eyes. Hammers, chisels, even nail files whacked away at the Berlin Wall that day 20 years ago, reducing parts of it to dust. The symbolic front line of the Cold War, which snaked around the city for nearly 100 miles, claimed the lives of 136 East Germans who attempted to escape to freedom. And suddenly, after nearly 3 decades, an offhanded remark by a Communist apparatchik altered the course of history. On the night of November 9th, 1989, East German Politburo spokesman Guenter Schabowski announced travel restrictions between east and west would be lifted — the genie was out of the bottle. “When?” asked stunned reporters. “As far as I know,” he stammered, “Immediately, without delay.” Jubilant East Berliners wasted no time. Border police at the famous Brandenburg Gate, who rousted and chased Peter Jennings and the rest of us for years, joined in the celebration along with hundreds of thousands of East Berliners clamoring to cross into the West. “We were speechless and happy,’ said one of them — today, she, Angela Merkel, is the German Chancellor. Peter and I accompanied throngs of her compatriots into the west; watched them reunite with long lost relatives, witnessed them experience what had been verboten for nearly 30 years. We ourselves climbed the wall that day, leaned over and shook hands with those same East German police. Germans of all stripes embraced in a massive outpouring of emotion. As did most everyone that day, we filled our pockets with every bit and piece of the wall we could score. One personal note on that — on the flight home from Zurich, the seat in front of me was occupied by a man of such considerable girth his seat began to creak and bend in my direction. I wanted out. I approached a flight attendant and said ”my pockets are full of the Berlin wall." I reached down and gave her a handful, a suitable bribe I thought. “Here,” I said, “please get me out of that seat.” She left and returned in about 2 minutes, “Got any more?” she asked. “Sure,” I said as I gave her another handful of rocks and pebbles and dust. Soon the flight attendant returned with a new ticket, I had been upgraded to 1st class… concrete evidence of the power of a symbol and the threat it represented.