Like so many millions around the globe, we love Paris.
I was a French major in college and spent my junior year in Paris studying French language and culture at the Institut Catholique de Paris. After college I spent three years working for the U.S. Army in Germany, during which time I returned to Paris more than half-a-dozen times, several of those times with Tom, who was an Army officer at that time stationed not far from where I worked.
How many times during those years did I stroll with friends or alone or later with Tom through the student quarter known as the Quartier Latin, along the Boulevard Saint-Michel, across the Pont Saint-Michel to the île de La Cité, then to the square across from Notre Dame?
I was nineteen years old when I first saw Notre Dame. It was the first of the great world cathedrals that I'd ever seen. I was truly wonder-struck.
Such were my thoughts as I watched Notre Dame burn, or at least in those moments when I could force myself to believe that what I was seeing was actually happening. And I was gripped with a great pang of regret that my children, none of whom have been to Paris, would never see it.
And I felt an almost surreal sensation of being at a momentous point in the continuing timeline of history: April 15, 2019, the day when Notre Dame Cathedral, an 800-year old man-made wonder of the world, was destroyed by fire, gone from the planet, never to be seen by future generations.
We've since learned, thankfully, that Notre Dame was not destroyed by the fire, and some of its greatest treasures were spared,
And French President Emmanuel Macron has promised that France, with the help of the the world's most brilliant architects, would rebuild Notre Dame, hopefully within five years. As of today almost a billion dollars has been pledged to the rebuilding, most of it from the French people.
As President Macron said in his inspiring speech:
Notre Dame is our history, it's our literature, it's our imagery. It's the place where we live our greatest moments, from wars to pandemics to liberations. ... I'm telling you all tonight — we will rebuild this cathedral together. This is probably part of the French destiny.
Notre Dame has been called the sacred heart of Paris, the soul of France.
Which has set me to wondering: Here in the United States, among our many national monuments,
But then maybe that's not a question that a country can answer in less than a thousand years.