Notre Dame Memories and Why It Matters
On Monday April 15, the world watched in horror as the Notre Dame Cathedral burned for hours. The over 800 year old beauty has touched so many around the world with its beauty and undoubtedly holds a special place in the hearts of Parisians and French nationals, but also with people from all around the world.
Places and buildings connect us through time and space.
As it burned, social media feeds began to be flooded with images of the cathedral and memories of time spent there. I immediately recalled my first and only experience there 20 years ago as a young teenager. Long before smartphones and social media, I am not sure I even have any photos from the night I visited but the experience is forever in my head. I remember sitting one evening, having my portrait sketched in front of the grand structure with kids whirling past on skateboards, conversations surrounding me in an assortment of languages, people laughing, and groups of tourists standing and staring up in awe at the cathedrals beauty. The church has been a bustling gathering place for hundreds of years.
As a preservationist and architecture nerd, I couldn’t help but think about how incredible it was to hear from people all over about why this church mattered to them. Maybe it taught them to appreciate art and architecture, or maybe they’re a French national and seeing it fills them with pride, or maybe it just reminds them of a trip spent with friends and family. Whatever it is, Notre Dame connects with millions of people.
Throughout the day as some donations and pledges flooded in for the rebuilding effort which is great and I’m glad it will be rebuilt one day. This flurry of cash and outpouring of love did make me wonder about preservation and US properties already lost or threatened. Not every building is Notre Dame but public and religious buildings were built for a reason and help contribute to collective memories and a sense of place, right?
The rebuild of Notre Dame will be well funded.— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) April 16, 2019
In the past month, three historically black churches in Louisiana were destroyed by a racist arsonist. He has been charged with hate crimes, but these churches need your help. Please join me in donating https://t.co/gj1BcNsGpu
Before Monday, I didn’t know about the three historically black churches in Louisiana that were destroyed by a racist arsonist. I’m glad journalist Yashar Ali brought the story to the forefront amidst the chaos of the day and were able to raise over $1 million so for the rebuilding of these community churches. If anything, I hope this event causes us to pause and think about the places and buildings that matter in our own communities and how we can support them.
My aunt Catherine, with whom I traveled to Paris, shared this with me. “Notre dame was built in a testament of faith; now it is a testament to faith and in modern times also to the power of the human spirit to create—this is common to all structures great and small that matter to their communities.” Couldn’t agree more.
If you’re in the United States and don’t know where to start, check out the National Trust for Historic Preservation. They are the USA’s national historic preservation non profit and discuss sites around the country that are in need of support. Every state has a Historic Preservation non profit and most cities have a non profit or Historic Preservation Commission; both of these are great resources to learn more about historic preservation in your area and projects in need of support. If you’re still not sure where to look, drop me a comment or email me and I can help!