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In wake of the Notre Dame fire, reflecting on legacy

SFGate Thursday, 18 April 2019
When the spire of the Notre Dame Cathedral tottered, then fell earlier this week, I watched in horror and sorrow.

Though authorities believe the cause was accidental, potentially linked to renovations, the scene was eerily reminiscent of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001— the smoke, the crowds, the shock — as the centuries-old medieval cathedral went up in flames. People flooded social media with their memories and photos from the famed tourist attraction, a Parisian symbol of faith, strength and beauty.

Almost a quarter century ago, before I headed off to college, I visited Notre Dame with my sister. Like so many before me, and so many after, I stood in awe under the soaring arches and the jeweled light from the stained glass windows, and marveled at the soaring buttresses and the gargoyles looming above.

At the time, I’d wondered what it must have been like for the workmen to spend their lives on a project they themselves wouldn’t see finished in the nearly two centuries the cathedral was under construction.

Blink, and it’s gone. The devastating fire served as a sobering reminder of how quickly what seems eternal and unchanging can disappear.

I’d already been thinking about the vastness of time, and humanity’s brief role in it, after scientists recently revealed the mesmerizing first-ever image of a massive black hole, located 55 million light-years from Earth. To see it is to see into the universe’s past, and it serves as an opportunity to try to imagine Earth long before the first hominids showed up 6 million years ago.

I don’t know if we can fathom a time so distant, given that we plan our days by the hour, sometimes by the minute. We mark our lives with milestones — when we turn 16 or 21 or 40 or 60 years old. We think in terms of anniversaries, with the passing of decades, and not...
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News video: Trump Says He Offered US Help From 'Great Experts On Renovation' To Macron In Wake Of Notre Dame Fire

Trump Says He Offered US Help From 'Great Experts On Renovation' To Macron In Wake Of Notre Dame Fire 00:49

President Trump tweeted about the Paris fire on Wednesday. President Trump announced on Wednesday that he offered U.S. assistance in the rebuilding of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.  "Just had a wonderful conversation with @Pontifex Francis offering condolences from the People of the United...

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