Right now. Right in the earliest, blooming-est, greening-est weeks of springtime, the season of rejuvenation, right now comes a soul-wilting tragedy: the devastating fire at France’s Notre Dame Cathedral.
The heart-wrenching images of the flames, looking for all the world like an illustration of a scene from Dante’s “Inferno,” have singed many of us. Whether from a spiritual connection, a historical perspective or an art-lover’s affinity, the wound is deeply felt by millions.
As a Wichitan, it put me in mind of another tragedy. I well remember the day I looked out of my office window at the former Wichita Eagle building, and saw a towering column of smoke rising from what looked like my College Hill neighborhood in July of 1998. The magnificent Plymouth Congregational Church roof was in blazes. Two blocks away from my home at the time, this iconic church building was devastated by fire.
Though the scale is barely comparable to Notre Dame Cathedral’s magnificence, the pain of loss was felt nearly as deeply by the parishioners of Plymouth Congregational. Gloriously, by August of the next year, the structure had been repaired and reopened.
I know that a similar recovery awaits Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral. With the approach of Easter, there is reason to expect a rebirth. A stone may not have to be rolled away, but a lot of charred timbers will. Judging by the reaction already, the necessary resolution is in place. Notre Dame Cathedral, just as our smaller Plymouth Congregational Church, will bloom again. The tiny, greening buds of hope are already almost visible on the still smoldering, blackened wood from the great cathedral’s fallen spire.
We Wichitans know it’s possible and we know it will happen. Nature’s seasons show us the likelihood as does our city’s history. Notre Dame Cathedral will rise from the ashes.