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Why it hurts when architectural icons like Notre Dame are damaged or destroyed

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15.05.2019

She came in the door, holding on to several large bags of groceries. Normally this action is accompanied by a look that says, "Are you going to help or just sit there?" That day though, she just said, "Did you see it on TV? The Notre Dame fire?"

She put the bags on the counter. In the process, a couple of oranges escaped the plastic bag, lost their fight with gravity, fell to the floor.

"Fire? No," I said.

It was a Writing Day, capitalized in the calendar and never fully realized, but on those days the house is usually quiet. All the racket is in my head: the clickety-clack of train wheels, dialogue, planes taking off, more dialogue (my characters talk a LOT). The stuff of novels and an overactive imagination. The head of a writer is a very noisy place.

It doesn't usually contain fire though; something pricked behind my eyes.

"Yes," the lady said. "The roof, the building itself!" And soon enough we watched it all, in 60-inch flat screen splendour. In thousand-pixel coverage, Wolf Blitzer, breathless as always, described the fire that consumed the roof and spire of this grande dame of cathedrals.

The Notre Dame de Paris fire was thankfully not a terrorist attack, not the work of unhappy Yellow Jackets (the people, not bees), not a product of the religious or political extremism of the day. It........

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