Fire engulfs Notre Dame Cathedral

Jennifer Hamerman

As we write, a fire has devastated the cathedral of Notre Dame. All of Paris seems to be watching in horror, whether on TV or in person on the street, shouting “Oh No!” in unison as the roof and spires collapsed. The fire began just before 7 pm Paris time and word spread quickly, with friends and family texting each other with the news and watching in tears as the flames engulfed the building.

It’s too soon to tell what will remain of the cathedral. The situation looks bleak tonight, as the latest we learn is that the wooden interior is also ablaze. What is clear is that tangible grief is breaking out across the city. The cathedral has, for 800 years, stood strong at the heart of the city. Yes, we love the Eiffel Tower, but the robust and majestic Notre Dame inspired a much deeper affection. So many Paris children have played in the gardens behind the cathedral. So many candles have been lit inside for loved ones unwell or departed. So many romantic strolls have passed by this building lit up at night. The personal connection to the building is vivid and emotional.

Notre Dame

As a nation, the importance of the cathedral for France goes well beyond any one religion. It was a source of national solace at terrible moments for France, such as when so many lives were lost at the Bataclan and people descended to grieve together at Notre Dame.

For visitors from around the world, the cathedral holds a special place in their heart, instantly recognisable and a symbol of the city. 30,000 people per day visited Notre Dame and it’s clear from all the memories pouring out tonight that a piece of it stayed with them when they left.

This heartbreaking drama is playing out in Easter week when typically even more people visit Notre Dame. But as the flames rage over three hours after the fire broke out, hopes of an Easter miracle are few and far between. The cathedral seems too far gone and the flames too persistent for anyone to date hope for much to be salvaged.

Notre Dame

There’ll be plenty of time in the weeks and months ahead for us to pick over how the fire started and why it couldn’t be brought under control. For now, we simply share in the grief that destruction of Our Lady stirs in Paris and beyond. It’s hard to admit it but the orange flames against the building and the night sky are strangely beautiful. It’s a heartbreaking and spectacular goodbye.

We won’t know until tomorrow what will remain of this beautiful iconic building. But firefighters are saying that the two towers will be saved!

Love and sadness MLP