The Day That Notre Dame Burned

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Interior of Notre Dame. The firefighters’ helmets give them the look of medieval soldiers contemplating the cross.

It was Tax Day, and that’s bad enough, but it turns out that April 15, 2019, will go down as the day that Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris burned almost completely. The two great towers are still standing, at least.

Hours ago, I turned to Twitter, as I always do now, for the latest updates. The unbelievable sight of the Gothic spire burning and collapsing while shocked Parisians screamed and cried out on the street was most upsetting. It seemed apocalyptic.

Like the destruction of anything else involving that great city, it just sent a spear through the heart. Paris has had so many tragedies in the last decade: Charlie Hebdo, the massacre at the Bataclan concert hall… At least this one may have been linked to a careless construction accident rather than arson.

My first immediate reaction was horror and disbelief. It comforted me to read the emotional responses to the disaster on Twitter. Most of those were by women, I noted, who had visited Notre Dame as tourists and been awed by it. Writer Steve Silberman told an anecdote that moved me deeply:

On my 1st morning in Paris when I was 21 or so, I went straight to Notre Dame. It was much darker inside than I had imagined, like a Paleolithic cave. I saw a man crawling on the floor toward the Virgin. Only later I learned there’d been a power failure. Indelible experience. (@stevesilberman)

Today was also the 107th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.

UPDATE: Not only was the medieval rose window apparently saved, but the 180,000 bees in three hives on top of Notre Dame’s sacristy roof apparently were as well!




About Gabriella West

Author of LGBT historical fiction and contemporary queer romance. Copyeditor/proofreader.
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