History on Fire

2019-04-16 History on Fire

I have never been to Paris, but it is on my bucket list, along with so many other cities around the world.  I have family vacation destinations planned for our family every summer from now until 2029 (anyone who knows me personally will laugh and say “of course”) and the trips when my kids are high school and college-aged include Europe.

Hearing that Notre Dame Cathedral was on fire yesterday was shocking.  Never having seen it, I could still absorb the emotional devastation involved in destruction of a building over 850 years old.

For me, it brought back feelings of September 11th.  A high school senior at the time, once we heard the news that planes had flown into the World Trade Center and that the pentagon was on fire, the rest of the day was spent watching the news, in every class.  A building so iconic, so monumental in its presence – gone.  I watched the towers collapse.  I have been to the 09/11 memorial in New York.  Every once in awhile, I’ll see a picture or a movie with the silhouettes of the towers in the background and think “but they’re not there anymore.”

I remember sitting in a psychology class I was taking.  A fellow student asked if he could leave the class.  I had known him since childhood, and he was visibly shaken by what we had seen and heard all day.  He wanted out – to leave – to escape – to go home.  He asked permission to go to the guidance counselor’s office and walked out of the classroom.  Here was a young man, 17 or 18 years old, someone always goofing around and lighthearted, and he didn’t know what to do with what he was witnessing.

I imagine many people in Paris felt the same way yesterday.  Unsure of how to handle what was happening before their eyes.  Watching the devastation of such a treasure unfold.

This morning, I was sitting in Starbucks.  A woman entered the store and caught my eye.  She was briskly wiping away tears.  The rims around her eyes were still red.  She didn’t think that anyone had noticed her.  But I noticed.  I have been that person, so many times.  Frantically trying to hide my emotions in public.

She was meeting someone and walked up to that person, with a smile plastered over her face.  She then walked over to pick up a physical newspaper and sat down at a table with the newspaper and her coffee, while her friend waited in line for a drink.  She didn’t look up, but stared intently.  While other people were absorbed in their phones, she read the paper.

I don’t know if her tears were related to Notre Dame or not, and more than likely not.  But the front page of the paper sprawled before her displayed a huge photo of the fire.  As I watched her come into the store initially, not knowing what had caused her tears, I thought “Someone, somewhere is crying for Notre Dame today.”  Just like so many people cried the day after September 11.

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