About ten years ago this spring I made my first visit to Paris. My friend Jerry then lived in the Marais, just a short walk from Notre Dame and it was one of the first things we visited.
We walked to the square outside the cathedral where we fed the birds on pain au raisin, the birds coming to take the bits of sweet bread from our fingertips.
Jerry had been to and by this site many times before but as I stood in that square in front of it, I felt so very small, in awe of the majesty and beauty of this glorious architecture, one of France's most identifiable structures. A symbol.
The inside was just as beautiful. We listened to the magnificent organ...
... and walked down the aisle, through the various side rooms.
We admired the art, the statuary.
It was glorious.
And equally glorious from the exterior with its flying buttresses...
...and early spring blooms.
It took my breath away.
And of course, we returned at night.
Seven years ago, I returned to Paris, this time with Rick. We went first to Notre Dame -- a cold, wet, rainy mid-April day. Perhaps this very day. It was a shelter from the weather.
And again, we wandered, noticing the magnificent stained glass...
The Crown of Thorns...
...the relief carvings...
And once again, we felt so small.
Even then, the cathedral was under renovation.
I never would have imagined that perhaps it was the renovation that this week destroyed a major portion of this architectural treasure.
Notre Dame may be a Roman Catholic church but it is more than that. It is the center of Paris, from which all points are measured. It is an icon for those of all faiths and even for those of little or no faith but who love beauty, history, strength. It has survived revolutions and wars and welcomed people for centuries.
Like many of you, my heart broke a bit as I watched the television coverage of the fire that consumed Notre Dame, Paris' treasure. A group of us were at a restaurant and the television was on CNN -- a number of people simply stood in front of the television, shocked and saddned.
And like many of you, I remembered my earlier visits with gratitude.
To rebuild the damaged parts of Notre Dame will be at an astronomical cost. But somehow, I think there are people and organizations around the world who will contribute generously, whether they have visited or not. I hope so.
A garden grows outside Notre Dame. When I visited the first time the spring flowers were in bloom.
I hope they will bloom this year and bring some color to the charred structure built so long ago. As for the light of candles...
....well, we may all well want to light a candle for Notre Dame.
And trust that this venerable place of worship will be protected...
...and that the light will return.
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