I was at work. I was scrolling through my Instagram Stories when I saw the first post of the smoke in Paris.
A few more posts revealed the origin of the smoke—Notre Dame cathedral, specifically the base of the spire.
What the f—
I kept checking what my friends in Paris were posting about Notre Dame. I checked Facebook, watching Facebook Live footage. I eventually resorted to checking Twitter for the latest updates.
I surprised myself with the level of emotion that possessed me. My friends in Paris—most of whom are American or English expats—also felt the deep, indescribable heartbreak of Notre Dame in flames. It was clear on social media that the world opened their hearts for France and one of the country’s most precious national treasures.
The footage of the spire and roof collapse replay on social media was hard to watch. Seeing the flames claim the spire—the flèche that once proudly pointed to the sky for centuries—didn’t seem real…
If you’re not familiar with where Notre Dame Cathedral is located in Paris, it is the center of the city. Notre Dame sits on Île de la Cité in the Seine River—this is the oldest part of Paris, dating back to when it was first founded by the parisii tribe during the Celtic Iron Age (3rd century).
The smoke was visible from nearly any vantage point in Paris.
So if Notre Dame is the geographical center of Paris, and if Paris is the capital of France, and if France is world renowned for its dedication to preserving its culture, art, and history… to see Notre Dame’s highest point under siege and surrender to rising flames carries a heavy symbolism for those who appreciate and love French culture.
For me, Notre Dame embodies my passion for French culture that I’ve developed since I was a student, then built upon while I was living in the Paris region. I may not be religious, but being in awe of something so abundant in its significance instills an informed humility and appreciation for wonder.
After long hours of extinguishing the flames, the firefighters did succeed in stopping the flames from spreading to Notre Dame’s bell towers. The spire, roof, wooden interiors, and windows may be gone or heavily damaged, but Notre Dame still stands.
French President Emmanuel Macron made an announcement that there will be plans and fundraising efforts to rebuild Notre Dame. According to The Washington Post, there are already independent fundraisers being launched on GoFundMe and other platforms. Billionaire François-Henri Pinault of Kering, a French luxury fashion conglomerate, has already pledged 100 million euros to Notre Dame’s restoration efforts.
There will be plenty of more work ahead in the years to come to bring Our Lady of Paris to become complete again—but with the right combination of talent, hard work, passion, and a bit of patience, resilience is possible.
Although Paris has had its share of terrorist attacks, the investigation looking into the cause of Notre Dame’s fire has ruled out arson. There are rumors saying that this was a planned attack that falls in line with more recent vandalism of French cathedrals, including Saint Sulpice in Paris, but the facts say that this was a “non-voluntary incident.”