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Like everyone else the world over, I watched in horror last week as Notre Dame burned and its spire fell. I saw the stunned reactions of onlookers on the news, on social media and in front of television sets and phone screens on the streets of Nice, where I live. A part of France’s national identity and an international symbol of Paris was collapsing before our eyes.
This accidental burning of one of the most important French cultural and religious monuments struck a painful chord in just about everyone I know: I was getting messages of grief from friends in Sudan, Yemen, the US and South America. The unthinkable sight of Notre Dame burning evoked photographs of burning buildings during wartime, and nostalgia for all the valuable historical objects within them that had been turned to ash. One could not look at this sight without feeling grief.