On Losing: Notre Dame

Perhaps it is right that this hit with the pang of losing a loved one. My stomach sank when I saw the images Monday morning, and again when I was reminded of the blaze in the afternoon. Loss of this caliber takes multiple moments of realization to sink in, for that which we are losing is not incidental. It is the ground we walked upon, and we need time to recognize the landscape has shifted.

I visited Paris first with my father and brother when I was 14 years old. I remember the Eiffel tour lit up at night. I remember eating crepes and walking the Tuileries. And I remember visiting Notre Dame - its imposing facade, its elegance and rich ornamentation. Though years have since passed, my first impression of it remains clear - the building had a stature that helped it stand distinct in city and memory alike.

I’ve since visited Paris many times, and on each such occasion have encountered that facade, though rarely did I chose to visit it. Rather, I just ended up there, as if pulled by in by its orbit, its historical weight. It often felt to me that the French spirit itself swirled about its towers, echoed in its chamber.

Thus I mourn for my dear French people. From the time I spent in their country, I came to understand how important cultural history is to them. Thus, this hits at their core - the place from which all distances are measured, in space and in spirit.

And, for me, it is particularly painful to watch this history destroyed at such a volatile moment in human history. With the dangers of climate change, populism, and systemic inequity on the rise around the globe, it is a reminder that neither future nor past is guaranteed - that both must be defended and stewarded for the generations to come.