When the Notre Dame’s spire collapsed in a blaze onto the burning cathedral building below, I burst into tears. In that moment, while watching a livestream of the Notre Dame fire on Twitter, I knew that the building was beyond saving, and that this incredible monument would be ruined. And I was profoundly sad. Immediately, all the memories I had of walking through the cathedral in awe of its magnificence came crashing down on me, and I began sobbing. I felt helpless and hopeless as firefighters struggled to make an impact on the flames, and I was heartbroken for the loss of a piece of history. I cried for those who would never get to see the cathedral and its famous stained glass windows in person, and I cried for myself because I would never have that experience again.
The iconic cathedral has watched over the city for centuries, standing proudly as a testament to human ingenuity, artistic ability, and faith. Today, that cathedral fell, taking with it its beauty, art, and architecture. That is a tragedy. When watching it burn, I felt as though a piece of the city I loved, my Paris, was lost forever.
“Fluctuat nec mergitur” has been the motto of Paris since the mid-1300s, which is coincidentally also when the construction of the Notre Dame cathedral was completed. It means “she is rocked by the waves but she does not sink.” The motto is a message of strength and perseverance. Since the Notre Dame was built and Parisians chose this motto, the city has seen plagues, wars, revolution, unrest, and change. More recently, Parisians used this motto to cope with the 2015 terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of 130 victims. Throughout my life since living in Paris several years ago, I’ve remembered this motto during my own times of sadness and hopelessness. Today, the city saw the ruin of one of its most beloved (and most visited) landmarks, and the people lost an invaluable place of worship during one of the most important weeks of the Christian calendar. As I was tearing up watching the footage, I remembered, “she is rocked by the waves, but she does not sink.”
A symbol of Paris was ruined today, and it is a profound loss for many, but Paris will remember and rebuild, just as it always has. Even without Notre Dame, Paris is still Paris. The symbol may be gone, but the meaning behind the symbol remains. Everything the Notre Dame represents- beauty, art, human achievement, the Christian faith- is alive and well in the city today, and these will never sink as long as we keep them alive. In a testament to the strength of Parisians and devotion to the city, firefighters risked their lives to save the priceless works of art in the cathedral. Parisians have always made Paris “Paris.” With perseverance and strength, the people of Paris have formed and reformed the city throughout history in times of unrest, devastation, and sadness, and I know that they will carry on with this spirit in the wake of this incident.
The loss of the Notre Dame de Paris is heartbreaking. We will feel a new sadness and loss when looking at old photos of the cathedral knowing that the Parisian skyline will never be quite the same, but Paris will always be Paris.
5 thoughts on “Paris Will Always Be Paris”
Such a tragedy. Next week I will be traveling to Paris for the first time and it’s just so heartbreaking to hear this news.
Loved reading your perspective on this! I was just in Paris a few weeks ago, so thankful I got to see Notre Dame one last time. Thanks for sharing 🙂