The moment clouds of smoke entered my social media feed, terror and bewilderment set in. Blink once, blink twice, and I am forced to read the words beneath the astounding images, “Notre-Dame Cathedral catches fire.”
While the initial panic was surely a result of the 9/11 tragedy, this hit to the heart feels more like an ache, rather than a stab, and yet my eyes begin to swell just the same. This 900-year-old building carries a presence that is unmistakable and garners more respect than many of our world’s leaders could ever imagine. As the spire fell, hearts dropped to the floor.
This catastrophe, although fortunately not one of terrorism, strikes a chord with generations of people and stirs up emotions many of us try to suppress.
Twitter brought forth the voices of atheists who could still empathise with the tragedy in this loss. It is not about religion, political views or gender in an event like this. It is about the flames that can take down a structure that stood the test of time- more than once.
Others mocked the flames, an act I hope is the awkward and uncomfortable reaction some have to tragedy. The flames are the toxicity that runs through the veins of many in our world today. They are the hate, the homophobia, the racism that somehow still has power in our world.
Strangely enough, the Titanic sunk on the exact same day 107 years ago. I am not one to believe God puts destruction into the world; however, maybe this is our 100-year reminder. A reminder of what it’s like to be helpless, to watch a seemingly untouchable entity collapse before our eyes with nothing to do but try to blur the view with our tears.
This is a reminder of how powerless we are when faced with the beast that is mother nature. The cold touch of an iceberg can sink the “unsinkable” and a fiery spark can crumble the unforgettable. With so many in our culture searching to be heard, remember that nature can quiet a nation. We are all a nation of broken sinners trying to make it through the course of life. Let’s do better. Let’s rebuild with Notre-Dame and with Paris. We will never be brought back to our innocence, but perhaps we can inspire the next generation to make it one step further.
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted, “Emotion of a whole nation. Thoughts for all Catholics and for all French. Like all our compatriots, I am sad tonight to see this part of us burn.”
We all have an ember inside of us and it is our choice to either let it combust in the form of bigotry, hatred, and violence- or to let it ignite us. It can ignite our passion, our willingness to do good and to be heard for the right reasons. It can smolder cruel-natured individuals and let the rest of us gleam. Every prayer, every birth, and every loss in that cathedral was dispersed through each wave of smoke. It blanketed the nation of Paris and it is time for us all to share in the warmth. Je suis Paris.
Photo credits: Peter Haas