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Apr 17, 2019
The front of the Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris
It was September, and the weather was beautiful. It was our "honeymoon" after nine months of marriage. We waited in a short line to enter.
I walked in with my then-husband. I touched the tips of my fingers gently in the holy water and crossed myself. I stood in awe as I looked around. The vast ceilings, the intricate sculptures, and stained-glass windows. The many alcoves and side altars. The reverent murmuring.
The familiar smell of frankincense in the cool interior.
I couldn't believe I was there, in Paris, France, standing inside the iconic Gothic Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris.
I was awestruck.
I'll never forget that first visit nor those that followed. That first time, I had my Pentax 35mm film camera. I didn't have time to look for the photos from that trip. I don't like to look at them anyway, considering how things turned out.
Nevertheless, it was a wonderful trip. My French was good enough to get us around. It was my first trip to Europe.
Since then I've been blessed to go back a couple of times. In April of 2000, we went to a friend's wedding in Fontigny Tresney. It's a sweet little town south of Paris. We stayed for a couple of weeks in Paris while my parents watched the kids. I was shooting 35mm film then too.
We took Ellie and Claire to Paris in 2009. My stepdaughter wasn't able to join us, and my son decided to stay behind with my sister (I know, right?), but we had great fun introducing the girls to Paris.
The girls at the Louvre - a sassy age, can you tell?
On that trip, I had a little point-and-shoot digital camera - my first digital - and it was awful. It took terrible photos, and I couldn't ever quite figure out the best way to use it. It wasn't a manual camera, so I was forever trying to work with the "scene" settings.
A gargoyle on top of the roof of the cathedral
What I ended up with were mostly garbage photos, unfortunately. But these are the only digital photos I have of the Cathedral. I don't remember what the lens was, but it didn't allow me to get much in the shots.
We went to the top of the Cathedral with the girls for that amazing view of Paris. As we made our way inside the church, daily mass was starting. We stayed for mass. The girls were tickled that people had their dogs in church with them.
The Rose Window
When my youngest texted on Monday that the Cathedral was on fire, I was in the middle of scrubbing my deck in preparation for staining it. I didn't want to acknowledge the tragedy, so I tucked it away in my mind.
This morning, I finally had the courage to look at some news footage.
As I watched the flaming spire tip and then fall into the Cathedral, I burst into tears. I have so many good memories of Paris. I texted my cousin, Caroline, who spent a year in Paris. She said she cried and cried and still isn't the same.
My heart is broken for the French people, for Paris, and for what's been lost to the world. Thankfully, no one was killed, and many of the artifacts and relics were saved.
As someone who loves architecture, I was always fascinated by the flying buttresses and the history of Notre Dame. I loved standing outside the Cathedral looking at all the carvings, sculptures, and gargoyles. There's an incredible amount of detail work. It took 200 years to rebuild and was once in danger of being demolished. Napoleon saved it.
I read this morning that there are no trees in France big enough to rebuild the roof. The ancient Beachwood beams were over 800 years old. It's unknown whether there are any beechwoods big enough anywhere in the world that could be imported. But even if there are, it would be a shame to take them down, even for Notre Dame.
It's impossible to imagine Paris without the Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris. President Macron says he wants the Cathedral rebuilt in five years. Experts say it will take 10-15 years. I hope they're able to rebuild her soon.
It's Holy Week for Christians all over the world. Easter draws near and reminds us that in times of darkness there is always a resurrection. So too Notre Dame will be resurrected once again.
Blessed Easter to you and yours.
See you between the raindrops!
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