The most important thing to do was stand on the gold star outside. My mother insisted I get a picture of my feet there the first time I visited, was I was 13, and reminded me of this 12 years later when I returned. I did before running my hands over a door that’s the kind of heavy used to keep out battering rams.
Inside, the taps of little children’s shoe soles dominated the echoes of tourists being ushered through the eternal (but now not) hall. Prayers rang out. First English, then Latin, before the final third of the service was preached and sung in French. It was the first and only time someone took my picture while I prayed but that was Mass at Notre Dame.
Later that day, I would sit beneath the Eiffel Tower as it was framed by the stars, grass staining my shorts, and for the first time in my life had a glass of wine.
This is one of humanity’s greatest losses. This is 1000 years of uninterrupted beauty burned to nothing in a few hours. Glass stained with images of Christ melted into the pavement. Burning pews, alters, vestibules, and Bibles inside belch smoke with a slowing rhythm, the fire’s shallow breathing a damning sign that there’s no life left to snuff out.
Notre Dame is dead.