Like much of the world, I watched Notre Dame cathedral burn yesterday. And like so many others, I watched in shock and sorrow.
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I'm used to following the news as it unfolds. You try to keep your emotions in check and cover events as objectively as you can. I must confess to getting emotionally involved as I watched the flames engulf a church that I had visited many times over the last 50 years.
My first reaction was shock. I had heard the initial reports of smoke drifting over Paris. But the first video of the flames was a real emotional punch. It was a blaze, a blaze that was clearly going to destroy the interior, made from tinder-dry wood, hundreds of years old.
And when the spire collapsed, you knew it was the end. It was a conflagration, shocking to see because it was so vivid. The video so horribly compelling. I couldn't look away.
Nor could the Parisians who poured out by the tens of thousands to see this dreadful sight. I heard some in the crowd singing "Ave Maria." I saw tears in many an eye. Paris had lost something central to its character, central to its history. Notre Dame is on an island in the middle of the River Seine, in the middle of Paris. Its spire was as iconic as the Eiffel Tower. And it’s gone. As Shep Smith memorably said during his coverage, Paris has been "disfigured."
I'm sure that in the future, there will be finger pointing. There will be a blame game. There will be political and financial repercussions. That’s in the future.
But in the here and now, the day after, there is the sad awakening to a tragic loss. Paris has taken a blow to its heart. And those of us who knew Notre Dame are keenly aware that we've all lost something that cannot be replaced.