Our Lady

· Mourning the Notre Dame fire in Paris ·

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There are few events these days that garners the same response from everyone. In a hyper-polarized culture, there are often several interpretations of events and even tragedies rather than a collective response. When the 850 year old Notre Dame de Paris caught fire Monday night, we saw one of these events that united us in our grief.

Notre Dame cathedral, with its two bell towers, gothic gargoyles and imposing spire, has stood over Paris for nearly a thousand years. It has stood strong through the French Revolution and the Nazi occupation of France. It has seen the marriages and coronations, believers and visitors. All have stood in awe.

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The gothic cathedral is one of those places that can’t truly be captured in words or indeed photos. Like the Coloseum in Rome and Big Ben in London, it truly takes your breath away when you first catch sight of it and you realize why textbooks and travel guides continue to reference them as monuments to human history.

That’s what’s so powerful about the reaction to the fire. People who aren’t French or who have never even visited the cathedral in real life appreciated the magnitude of what was being destroyed as they watched flames ravage the spire on TV. Those who have seen it in person felt it keenly and I can only imagine the grief of Parisians and Frenchmen. Notre Dame took over 200 years to build. Those who designed it never saw it completed. Men worked tirelessly to construct it all without the modern tools and technology we have today. Let that sink in: people built two 223 foot towers without modern cranes or engines.

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The world mourns the destruction of Notre Dame with Paris. Already, money is being rapidly raised to rebuild the impressive cathedral (unsurprisingly, large donations by the owners of fashion companies have already been pledged). Sadly, Notre Dame had needed funds for its restoration prior to the fire and it’s somewhat of a shame that it took such a devastating event to attract the kind of funds it needed before. But if something good is to come of this, let it be that we remember to care of our historical monuments before they get to this stage.

For while Notre Dame is a symbol of Paris and a testament to French history, it is also our collective history; the history of us as human beings and what we are capable of.

And one thing is certain: Notre Dame lives on.

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