We expect the metro to be filled with people coming from all over the city to watch the scene, but when we get there the metro is almost empty. Moreover, it’s weirdly silent. We get off at Odéon, since the metro won’t stop at Cluny la Sorbonne, as we learn through the speakers.
We walk the last bit. As we get closer the streets get more crowded. There is a roadblock, so people press themselves as far as they could possibly get to sneak a peek. First, we think that there is no way we can get through the masses of people. We start to orbit the cathedral in a wide range, dragged in by the little streets, seeking every possible perspective on the fire. Notre Dame is located on a little island, surrounded by the Seine.
This morning we went to Notre Dame, but seeing the queue, which only ended at the end of the square in front of the church due to people disposing themselves in half circles, wavy like a sine function, we walked by. It wasn’t the first time we passed by Notre Dame: barely one day passed by without us going into the Shakespeare and company bookshop on the other side of the Seine, and we crossed the square in front of the cathedral every time we left the shop. But no matter when we got there, the queue was always there, and it seemed as if people were waiting for days to enter the cathedral.
Imagine being one of those persons, that stood in line for half a day, to get to visit a cathedral that burns down on the exact same day. That’s lucky, isn’t it?
We get to a point where we can see the whole extent. The two main towers are dipped in bright rosé, and through the unique rose window on the right side of the cathedral you can see the orange fire. The rose window is roofed by a triangle with two little towers on each side. Behind it, the naked skeleton holds the fire in a perfect rectangle. Furthermore, another, fairly small fire starts to guzzle its way through the walls. I remember how I was wondering why they don’t stop the fire right away, so it doesn’t cost more damage on a part, that looks unscathed from my perspective. I can’t see any water cannons. Smoke crawls its way towards the sky, yellowish looking. As I start smoking, I realise, that there is no other smell of smoke except for my cigarette.
As we continue to orbit the church, I realise how you could see the difference between people who have already seen the burning cathedral and the new arrivals. Just minutes ago, we were running just like them, scared of missing those images, which are now safely stored and burned into our brains. Those who have seen the extent walk slowly, sort of sluggish. Another remarkable thing is the silence, given the amount of witnesses. Nobody dares to speak up loudly.
When we reach another place, a man puts on Bach in his living room. I’ve never been so deeply touched by a piece of art. It feels as if Bach had foreseen the situation and specially composed this piece for the occasion of the burning Notre Dame. As we continue our walk, I start looking into peoples faces. Some just lean against a tree, lighting a cigarette or a joint and watch, while others are visibly touched. I see many people crying. People spread on the waterside and I smell weed more frequently. We finally see jets of water, trying to win over the flames, but it seems as if the flames don’t mind the water, since they playfully start to sparkle all over the cathedral’s south façade.
As we reach the Pont au Sully, people have gathered to sing the Ave Maria and Lord’s prayer together. A girl with an outstanding clear voice coordinates as the precentor. As we watch the Notre Dame burning throughout the bridge, I slowly feel how my body starts to hurt physically, while this sort of collective sadness finally reaches my brain.
This sadness that catches and jackets all of us witnesses belongs to the people of Paris, it belongs to the country but most especially to the lady, who has been built up in nearly 100 years, who is famous not only for “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and as the keeper of the „Kilometre zero”.
She is the last great early Gothic cathedral in France and the last and largest gallery church, and she got heavily injured that evening. She got damaged during the French revolution, and now due to a huge fire.