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Notre Dame Will Endure

General view shows the Notre Dame Cathedral, as works continue to stabilise the cathedral’s structure nine months after a fire caused significant damage, in Paris, France, December 23, 2019. (Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters)

Over two decades ago, I was a television producer. One of the highlights of my short career in that business — and in my life — was producing a documentary about Notre Dame. I spent a week with a backstage pass, as it were, to one of the greatest works of art ever made (calling it merely a “building” or even a cathedral misses the staggering beauty and artistry of the place). I got to go places closed off to the public and see the details that that are only blurry from the plaza below. I treasure that experience more than ever before as my heart breaks looking at the flames seemingly hollow it out. It’s difficult for me to comprehend the anguish the French must feel today. No structures in the United States — even the White House — are as central to French history and identity as Notre Dame. It not only was a literal stage for so much French history, literature, politics, and culture for eight centuries; it often set the stage figuratively speaking. There’s no doubt that many irreplaceable things have been lost and this is a tragedy by any reckoning. But it’s worth remembering that much of the Cathedral has been replaced over the years. I seem to recall that every century, much of the building is essentially “new” because of the constant work required to maintain it. The damage here is different, of course. My only point is that Notre Dame will endure. It may be decades before the wounds are hidden. But one day, this will be just another — admittedly tragic — chapter in her amazing history.

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