Fire in France: the aftermath of the Notre Dame disaster

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A view of the Notre Dame fire from the iconic front of the cathedral. As the fire rages, Paris watches on as nothing can be done to stop the blaze. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Monday, April 15th, 2019 is a day that will live in French and world history as the day the Notre-Dame de Paris caught on fire and the famous spire burnt to the ground. At approximately 12:50 pm eastern standard time, which would have been around 6:50 pm in France, the cathedral in Paris caught on fire and burned as nearly 400 firefighters battled the fire for more than twelve hours. CNN’s Chris Cuomo began their live coverage of the event with a somber statement of the truth.

“We are watching history being destroyed in real time,” he said. “This is not about damage. This is about the destruction of one of our oldest and best-known places of worship on the planet, Notre Dame.”

As the fire started, people were evacuated from the area to save them from the destruction. Miraculously, no civilians were harmed by the blaze and only one of the firefighters was injured. No one died.

About an hour after the fire had started and spread, the famous spire of the cathedral collapsed in a way that might remind people of the collapse of the twin towers in 2001. The White House released a statement Tuesday morning concerning the horror of the events in France the previous afternoon.

“France is the oldest ally of the United States, and we remember with grateful hearts the tolling of Notre Dame’s bells on September 12, 2001, in solemn recognition of the tragic September 11th attacks on American soil. Those bells will sound again. We stand with France today and offer our assistance in the rehabilitation of this irreplaceable symbol of Western civilization.”

Not only was the historic building being threatened by destruction, but also the many historical artifacts inside. Many pieces of artwork were moved from Notre Dame to the Louvre to be preserved until the building can be restored. These artifacts and even the building itself has inspired people in France and across the world for centuries.

“For many throughout history, and for many now, Notre-Dame is more than just a Catholic cathedral,” French teacher Derek Worch said. “She is a muse for musicians, writers, poets, artists, and so many more. The French will rebuild her, but it is hard to watch such a monument suffer.”

We are watching history being destroyed in real time. This is not about damage. This is about the destruction of one of our oldest and best-known places of worship on the planet, Notre Dame.”

— CNN’s Chris Cuomo

However, since the main foundation and interior of the building are intact and there is already more than 700 million dollars pledged towards the rebuilding of the cathedral after the disaster, there already seems to be good progress towards rebuilding after the fire, even if the reconstruction may take years and even decades. French president, Emmanuel Macron, announced his plan to rebuild the cathedral in time for Paris to host the Summer Olympics in 2024.

“The fire at Notre Dame reminds us that our history never stops,” he said. “Everything that makes France material and spiritual is alive and for this reason it is fragile and we must not forget that. Yes, we will build the cathedral of Notre Dame even more beautiful than it was. But this must be done in five years. We can do that. I share your pain, but I also share your hope. We now have to act, and we will act, and we will succeed.”

Macron’s statement comes at a crucial time in world history. The ability of world leaders to fight for national unity and heritage is needed in a world where tensions are high and the willingness of people to work and fight for beliefs is low. Worch stated a few words in French that describe not only how France feels now, but about how the world now watches on to see what will happen.

“La France est touchée dans son chair, dans son cœur, dans son identité, et dans son histoire,” Worch said. “[In English] France is touched in her flesh, in her heart, in her identity, and in her history.” 

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