The world was silently weeping as flames engulfed the ancient building.
So was I.
Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris) was the most memorable monument that I visited during my trip to Paris many years ago. As I embarked on a journey with my father up the 387 steps in the South Tower, I could smell seasoned wood that harnessed over 900 years of history while the gentle whispers of saints urged me to the top. When we reached the pinnacle, there before me, resting in reverence at the foot of this magnificent Gothic structure, was the most eloquent view of Paris; one that artists, writers, and sculptures have tried for centuries to capture, yet can only be truly seen with beholden eyes.
I had the good fortune to attend mass in Latin at Notre-Dame. It was surreal to imagine those before me during past centuries. The history. The culture. One leaves this cathedral with much more than one arrives with. There's an intangible je ne sais quoi that serenely resonates within one's being.
Over the years, I looked upon it's majestic spire in awe and watching it tumble in a blaze of fire left me feeling utterly speechless. Is it wrong to mourn the loss of a building? An inanimate object? A host of bricks, marble and wood?
Because we are not mourning "things". We are instead, mourning the way these materials became the long-labored compilation of a world-renowned piece of art.
We mourn the loss of history within a sovereign house of God.
I could go on about the history of Notre-Dame and the magnificent relics housed there, but my only reaction at this moment is sadness. The images of Parisians kneeling along the Seine river, singing Ava Maria as a significant portion of their Lady of Paris disintegrated before them, made me weep. Their pain was difficult to witness. The loss of what once was and can never truly be replaced, was a lot to bear.
Tomorrow, rebuilding will begin. The steel spires will rise high into the Paris sky and the 13-ton Emmanuel Bell will ring once again in F sharp. Like life, and faith itself, the structure will be renewed.
I, on the other hand, will hang on fondly to the former Notre-Dame de Paris. The one that I paid homage to with my father which now, seems not so long ago.