Grief is not too strong a word for the emotion that hundreds of millions of people around the world felt as they saw the Cathedral of Notre Dame in flames. It wasn’t just that one of Europe’s most beloved buildings was burning, terrible as that was to watch; it was knowing how much this astonishing creation has meant to Parisians, to the French, to Europeans, and to people of all the world for centuries. One gazed in horror as those uncountable meanings, memories and associations were threatened with destruction.
President Emmanuel Macron was right when he said that “part of us is burning.” And whether he meant to or not, he spoke for everyone.
The reaction was both global and heartfelt, and there’s surely some comfort in that. While understanding the cathedral’s extraordinary power as a symbol of France and sympathizing with the French in their pain, people everywhere were also downcast on their own behalf. France’s loss would be their loss, too. Notre Dame is a summit of human achievement — a timeless expression of the quest for goodness, beauty and comprehension of our place in the universe.
Dreadful as the damage might be, indelible as those images of the flames may prove, it seems that the stunning walls and towers of the cathedral will stand. Notre Dame can be restored. It’s safe to predict that this effort won’t founder for lack of resources or ingenuity. And when the cathedral is whole once more, it will stand not just for all it has always meant, but also for an added measure of human resilience, and for the surge of global feeling its peril inspired.- Bloomberg
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