On April 15th, the Cathedral of Notre Dame burned, in a conflagration lasting more than half a day. The world watched in horror as its massive spire, lit up from within, succumbed to the flames, sinking and toppling. For a short while, it seemed as if the cathedral itself might be structurally weakened to the point of collapse and total destruction.
I texted my kids, glad that we had visited but sad that they might have been too young, really, to remember what it had looked like, inside. “It might not be there when we wake up,” I wrote, feeling some tiny little piece of my heart cracking. This is why we can’t have nice things, I thought, resenting the cheap, pre-fab, concrete-pop-up, blight of urban strip malls that surround us. Human hands made that majestic cathedral with its awe-inspiring flying buttresses. Human sweat and labor over more than 200 years, and it might all crumble in a day.
Learning about the bees, kept on the roof of Notre Dame, almost broke me.
Strangely, almost inexplicably, I woke up feeling lighter. Notre Dame did not weigh on my mind as I might have expected it to. I woke up with faith that Notre Dame would take care of itself, and its people would take care of it, as they always had.
Morning brought shock, sadness, but a glimmer of hope. The two bell towers still stood. The cross still gleamed from the altar. The medieval organ, though not unscathed, might yet function and be repaired. Many of the priceless relics and works of art had been saved. Over 500 firefighters battled on behalf of a grateful people – Parisians, the French, Catholics, the World – to save a beloved icon of historical, architectural, spiritual, artistic, cultural, and religious significance. French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuilt Notre Dame, and set an ambitious timetable of five years.
Donations to rebuild her began to flow in almost as fast as the water that put out the fire that threatened to destroy her.
To the critics of the billionaires donating, I can only say, “Think. Where will that money go, now? To laborers, caterers, cleaners, restorers, suppliers…” It will not “trickle down” but rather return to the flow of commerce. It was theirs to give, or not, and Notre Dame has opened their hearts to give it. Don’t be angry or bitter. Take it and build excellent things.