Imagine my distress when I logged into social media late night on 15 April, only to be confronted by a slew of images of the Notre Dame on fire. I’m not embarrassed to say that I was in tears. I spent the rest of the evening in a shell-shocked state, watching footage of the fire raging, of the enormous cloud of smoke billowing into the sky, and finally the spire tumbling to the ground.
I was devastated.
I first set foot in its hallowed halls when I was 18 years old. It was my first visit to Europe and I was awestruck and wide-eyed the entire time, but never more so than inside that glorious Gothic cathedral. I gaped at the intricate carvings of saints and sinners, at the beautiful woodwork and stonemasonry. I admired the vaulted ceiling high above, the pillars that lead the eye up to Heaven. I stood in dappled light as the sun fell in through the Rose window.
And then something amazing happened. A voice – pure, angelic – lifted in song. The words of Ave Maria echoed through that vast space.
Everyone stopped and stared at the young woman, her eyes cast upwards, her face beatific.
Goosebumps raised on my arms then, and now, while I’m recalling it again.
The girl finished her song, the last notes drifting through the air. Her mother hugged her tightly. We all wiped away tears, before the subdued bustle of hundreds of tourists continued again.
That is how I remember the Notre Dame. It holds a special place in my memories.
I’ve been back once since then, and I’ve wanted to go again for a long time, but now it lies in ruins. I’m incredibly thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to see it in its full glory. There are surely millions of others out there, some in Paris right now for the first time, who are not so lucky as I have been.
If this is not a lesson in living your best life now, while you can, then I don’t know what is.
It took 200 years to build this magnificent cathedral.
It stood for 850 years.
It will stand again.
This post was first published on the blog of Suneé le Roux (Author).