Reflections on Notre Dame Cathedral
Like many of you, my heart broke to watch Notre Dame Cathedral burning this week. To see something that has stood so proudly, and with so much history and meaning, get eaten away so quickly is the kind of somber moment I wish we never had to see. The world watched and cried together.
Those who know me know that I love France, French culture, and the French people. My heart breaks most especially for them.
I first visited Paris with my family in 1984. I remember seeing Notre Dame for the first time. There’s nothing like it anywhere else in the world. France’s heartbeat is in Paris, and even as a teenager then, I could feel the pulse everywhere – in the people, the buildings, the gardens, everywhere. I was smitten.
Since my first dance with this incredible city, I’ve become a fluent French speaker and have returned many times: as an undergraduate on a school travel program, on a romantic visit with my boyfriend (and now husband of 25 years), on special “just us” trips with my daughter, my mother, and my mother-in-law, and with dozens of student groups over several decades. To me, it was an honor to share the city – and particularly the Notre Dame Cathedral — and to see each again through the new eyes of my fellow travelers.
Before the fire, being in Notre Dame offered an unspoken connection to the people around me. That connection and that appreciation calls me back. My next visit to Paris will be in June. I’m excited to return, of course, but with everything that’s happened, I know the tone will be different. It has to be. I want to pay my respects to Notre Dame. I want to sit with my memories of this special place and appreciate how fortunate I am to have them. I want to be there to see, for myself, how the incredible story of Notre Dame is going to push into a new chapter.
Notre Dame represents a lot of things – religion, architecture, history, future, art and especially the fantastic capabilities of humankind.. Now she needs help. The resolve of the French people to rebuild her was a decision made quickly, in unison, and without question. The support pours from around the world and is a reminder to me that the love I feel is widely shared and is as inspiring as it was when we first met.