When I first read the breaking news title, I refused to believe it. Surely someone was exaggerating… Then I read the article and I was speechless. Tears filled my eyes when I saw videos of the Notre Dame spire collapsing, swallowed by flames.
I’m not French. I’m an atheist, even if my father was a catholic. But this loss is not only about nationality or religion. History, art, a powerful symbol of human civilization, evolution and culture, that was what the flames were devouring. I’m a cynic, yet I can’t say, “It’s just a building; everything inside, they’re only things.” Iconic places like this particular one connect us with our past, grounding us into the present, giving us hope for the future. They transcend generations, they reveal mysteries of the past, pleasant and dreadful alike. These tokens are reminders of past generations, of their victories and losses, of their celebration and pain, of where human kind was centuries ago and how it has evolved, through mistakes and revelations. We have this knowledge in our blood, in our soul and in our minds, but we need such places to activate it.
At least my eyes filled with tears… at least so many other people reacted the same way, all over the world. At least seeing history, art and culture turn to ashes still moves us. Perhaps there is still hope for us. We are numb and dreadfully used to the pain, drama and loss of our own time, of our own generation; but at least when we see those palpable connections to our past and future burn, we can still feel.
I visited Notre Dame Cathedral about a year and a half ago. Like I said, I am an atheist, but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand and appreciate how faith can help so many people. I celebrate several holidays, because I love their symbolism and some of the traditions. I watched people attending Mass and it was a nice reminder that we need to find solace in something or someone. I looked at all the relics and I was amazed by how distant past lives in the present and will survive us. I was fascinated by its architecture… how unbelievably peaceful incredible beauty can be, how it transcends time…
I also read about the stages in building the cathedral. This week is adding a new, sad one to that display. Hopefully this only means that we – the now – become one more chapter in the story of a landmark of culture and civilization, which witnesses history and shares it with generations to come.
I couldn’t resist going through all my photos from Notre Dame (I have a feeling I wasn’t the only one). Now I’m glad I was greedy and immortalized so many moments of that visit; I’m also glad I was lazy and I didn’t get to delete all the bad ones. The light wasn’t that good, but somehow that feels irrelevant.. I’ll be quiet now, as I share a few of them with you, thankful I had the chance to be there, hopeful it will regain its glory.