An eight-century-old cathedral. A forest of ancient oak creating the roof structure. Hundreds of years to create. One night to destroy.
On Monday, I received a text stating Notre Dame was on the news, but I wasn’t prepared for what I found on my phone: pictures of the cathedral engulfed in flames. Throughout the day, I would check in, and when I really had time to sit and read, I was nearly brought to tears.
Less than a year ago, I was able to go to Paris for a day. After trips to the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, our guide decided we had a few minutes to spare and took us to Notre Dame. I was in the courtyard for about 10 minutes, marveling at the doors, snapping photos. It is unreal to think there was a possibility no one would get that chance again, that I would never see the inside.
I reached out to other students who were just as heartbroken.
“This cathedral was a huge figure in my childhood,” Peyton McCaw said. “’The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ made me fall in love with it, and I took a very special trip with my mom to Europe two summers ago where we saw it. We stood outside the cathedral for hours, and the bells were just incredible. I’m so thankful for that trip with my mom, and I’m so thankful I got to see my childhood dream come to life. Absolutely heartbreaking to see the spire collapse and all the damage caused by the flames.”
Others viewed the tragedy with the knowledge that now they might never be able to see the spectacle.
“Notre Dame was always on my bucket list of things to see,” Rachel Stadeli said. “It’s weird how you can make a bucket list and assume you’re the deadline, but more and more, it’s the place itself that’s becoming the deadline. This whole thing breaks my heart, and I hope they are able to rebuild it to at least some of its former glory.”
Now is a time of sorrow, and it is okay to grieve. I encourage you all to read about the damage done, but also read about all that was saved: artifacts and relics, the bells and stained glass. Four hundred fire fighters answered the call, and many more stood vigil outside the doors. This is not the end for Notre Dame.
When we look back at the history of this cathedral, we see it has already been through so much. It will endure still. True, it will never be the same. The thousand-year-old trees, once standing tall during the Crusades, which then supported the roof of Notre Dame, have been laid to rest. But the story isn’t over yet; we will rebuild.