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My father was a French teacher, in middle schools and colleges, and he took me to Paris when I was 11, in 1984. Before that trip I had never been more than a few hours drive from New York.
We took an overnight stay from JFK Airport and landed the next morning, exhausted. The best treatment for jet lag my father explained was exercise. So after dropping our luggage in the apartment of a friend of his, we went through Paris. I don't remember stopping in the hall except for our destination: Notre-Dame.
The cathedral connects mankind through the centuries. It also connects families, including those like mine, who will never worship within it.
When my grandfather was a young man living in Paris in the 1930s, he passed it. When my father was a student there in the 1960s, he lived close to it. He took me to see it that day in 1984 as my first experience in a culture other than my own. A few years ago, I took my children to stare at their towers and germinate.
Like so many others, I feel an almost physical sadness over the destruction of germs. And I also share the instinct with so many others: Notre-Dame must rise again.
More o n the fire
"We have failed as a civilization to be the guardian of something invaluable," writes Pamela Druckerman in The Times.
"That confusion created a feeling of helplessness and vanity," CNN's Frida Ghitis says, "the mind – genuine or imagined – that we looked at a metaphor, a prelude, a warning."
Like the Paris-based journalist Christine Ockrent notes in The Guardian, the church has been damaged and rebuilt before: "Notre-Dame de Paris will survive and most of its treasures."
Modern methods – including three-dimensional mapping of much of the cathedral – may help in the reconstruction, as some noted on Twitter. They cited a 2015 National Geographic story by Rachel Hartigan Shea. "The amazingly realistic panoramic images are incredibly accurate," she wrote.
In a time of turmoil for the larger church, the destruction means something acute for Catholics, writes National Review's Alexandra DeSanctis. "For many Catholics, it feels as if the Church is already on fire in a way. And now we see it windy," she writes.
Notre-Dame was a product of a particular cultural synthesis in Catholic history, writes my colleague Ross Douthat. "Catholicism today does not build something as beautiful as Notre-Dame in part because it does not have any 21st century version of the great synthesis to offer."
Atlantic Rachel Donadio – a witness to the fire – and The New Yorker's Lauren Collins – who visited the cathedral's roof last month with some of those working to restore it before the fire – have more at Notre-Dame.
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