|Photo: Bloomberg, via Twitter|
And yet, I need a bit of a rant because, in the fourth day after, I'm over it.
The images that came through social media and in the news on April 15—the same day in which the Titanic sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean—were shocking. Flames surrounding the base of the 300-foot spire spread until they climbed higher, consumed the structure, and brought it down.
When I saw the video of the collapsing spire, I thought, that's it, she's done for. I thought the vaulted ceilings inside the cathedral had collapsed and that the fire would rage, below. As the fire spread toward the two towers, I had visions of the beams, which support the many bells, would burn until the iron would come crashing down, the stone towers with them.
I went to bed, that night, relieved that fire fighters had worked feverishly to douse the towers and prevent the fire from spreading to them. News was travelling about France's fashion tycoons who were pledging hundreds of millions of euros toward "Our Lady's" reconstruction.
I fell asleep, saddened by what happened but hopeful for the church's restoration.
Like so many, especially those, like me, who had been to Notre Dame, had been through her nave and up and down her towers, there is a connection, not just with the structure but with history. Our lives are finite, but to know that we have touched this piece of history, where so many have come before us and, hopefully, so many more will come after, somehow grounds us in that history and makes us, if only a little, infinitely more.
The next day, news told us that the damage was not as bad as it could have been. Sacred, irreplaceable artifacts had been saved. French President Emmanuel Macron had publicly vowed to have Notre Dame rebuilt. Even though reports estimated that restoration could take decades, Macron insisted that he wanted it done in five years.
The Washington Post shared before and after photos of the cathedral, both inside and out. The damage was considerable, but not catastrophic. It's not so bad, I told myself.
On the third day, nearly a billion euro had been raised toward the cause, and that's when I stopped being sad. In less than 48 hours, hundreds of millions of dollars was waiting to be spent on a building. Granted, not just any building, but a building.
A building that belongs to one of the richest organizations in the world: the Catholic Church.
Meanwhile, poverty still exists. Even in Paris.
Meanwhile, cancer hasn't been beaten. Hospitals are overcrowded and underfunded.
Meanwhile, education isn't available to everyone.
I looked further into the Notre Dame Cathedral. Over its history, it hasn't escaped pillaging and vandalism. During the French Revolution, for example, many of its valuables were either destroyed or stolen. Some 28 statues of biblical kings who were mistaken for statues of French kings were beheaded. Toward the end of the revolution, Notre Dame was no longer used as a place of worship but as a place in which to store food.
It was made into a warehouse.
None of these facts makes this jewel of Paris less spectacular. What it does say that in the building's 856-year history, it has endured. Even the spire that fell is not the original. The first flèche, built in the 13th century, became weakened over the centuries by wind and was removed in 1786. The spire that toppled in Monday's fire had only been there since the 19th century.
Notre Dame will survive. Her story will go on with or without the emotional reaction from the rich, from the politicians.
|From 2014: my last visit to Paris.|
It's time to get back to worrying about the poor, the sick, and the quality and availability of good education. You know, the things that really matter.