Like millions who watched around the world on April 15th, I stared on, in quiet sadness, as the BBC covered the burning of the world’s storied cathedral. No talking heads or analysis needed. I only wanted the networks to show a live feed. The towers had survived wars and political upheavals. The Great War and Nazi invasion. The French Revolution. The symbol had presided over the city in less turbulent times. The comings and goings of children playing on the steps. Tourists snapping pictures. Husbands and wives holding hands, pointing at the demons above.
Unable to look away, thoughts came:
- How did this happen? Faulty wiring? Carelessness? Arson?
- Why didn’t I take my child here? If only I could go inside one last time.
- Please, for the love of God, put the blaze out.
- Will the Towers fall?
- Can the great cathedral be rebuilt?
With reports coming in, fake news included, I compartmentalized the how. Logic leaps without an investigation is a fools errand in a technological based and twenty-four news society. I tried to feel thankful. Within the last year, I’ve visited a strained Paris a handful of times. These trips are short bursts. Typically, for my Parisian stop overs, I land and Uber to a meeting, have dinner with friends, and then finish the night at one of my favorite spots. True drinking chocolate exists only in Europe. No amount of American ingenuity can replicate the experience.
As Paris’ population has soared, getting around during the daytime can be a challenging chore. But after the cafes close in the wee hours of the morn, the streets are silent. Each visit, I managed to hike the few short blocks to gaze upon the cathedral. Each time, the stone gargoyles peered down, watching those who brave the night. It’s the best time to see the sights of Paris. The shops are closed but the monuments speak to those who listen.
What is the stone telling us now? As the French government continues to mull plans to recover from the blaze, trying to finish repairs before an Olympics, I wonder what the future holds. Do you rebuild based on the old specifications? 3D imagining is available. Or, do you prepare for a brave new world using glass or another medium? I don’t know the answer. But Notre Dame has evolved through the years. Let’s hope the church can again. Grand visions stand time’s test and often find a way.
For now, I’m glad I had the opportunity to visit, only to understand what humanity can accomplish given the time, will and strength. And I have my own memories, those will remain.
For now, savor the past, enjoy the present, and look toward a new future. Whatever that may hold. Yes, “We will always have Paris.”