Paris was the first city in Europe that I ever visited, way back in 1986. Since then, I’ve spent countless days and nights in the “city of light”, and even had an amazing opportunity to “live” in Paris for a month on University business. It has remained one of my favorite cities in the world.
Despite the fact that I am not Catholic, Notre Dame has long been one of my very favorite landmarks in the city. The Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Pantheon, and the Hotel de Ville are all charming, but all of them combined don’t measure up to Notre Dame. Its impressive facade towers over the Seine, and dominates this whole area of the city. I’ve sat quietly inside, awestruck by the rose window and the the grandeur of the Cathedral’s interior. I have climbed the perilously claustrophobic, crowded and winding stairway to the top of the towers to commune with the gargoyles that stare out across the city from up there. I’ve spent a few warm summer days reading a book on one of the shaded benches at the back of the church. listening to her bells ringing out to let me know another hour had passed.
This past week, I watched the TV coverage of the horrible fire that claimed much of “Our Lady.” It was agonizing to watch and I couldn’t keep myself from crying as the intricately carved spire and roof surrendered to the flames. As painful as it was for me to see this, I can only imagine what Parisians felt as they watched helplessly while this treasure that is the soul of their city was destroyed.
I’m sure that the cathedral will be rebuilt and restored to its former glory and that its story is not over, but still, it’s going to take awhile for me, and for the world to come to grips with what has happened. At least I can take some comfort from the memories I have and the photos I’ve gathered over the years.