On April 15, 2019, the Notre-Dame Cathedral located in France caught on fire, filling the skies of Paris with thick, hazy smoke. The flame raged on for about 12 hours until it was finally extinguished on the morning of the next day. The destruction of one of the world’s most treasured historical artifacts made headlines across every media, drawing the sentiments of many who consider it to be the symbol of France and an emblem of medieval Gothic architecture.
The cause of the fire has been deemed an accident, but so far, about 30 witnesses, including the workers of companies that had been working on renovations and the security staff of the cathedral, are under question. The fire reportedly began in the roof of the cathedral, which lacked proper sprinkler systems to extinguish the fire immediately. It made its way down the wooden roof and infrastructure, mauling roughly two-thirds of it before finally taking down the famous spire.
While Paris’ fire chief, Jean-Claude Gallet claims that the structure has been “saved and preserved as a whole,” the damage that has been done to the Notre-Dame will still require years and even decades of work to rebuild, along with an estimated $2-3 billion worth of money.
In addition to the large numbers, enthusiasm and support for the rebuilding of the cathedral are at an overwhelming rate. On the first day alone, the government of Paris was able to garner about $1 billion from franchises, businesses, and private donors. With President Emmanuel Macron’s statement that he hopes the Notre-Dame will be rebuilt in the next five years, the aftermath of the devastation seems to promise hope and restoration. That is – only for those in favor of putting in the incredible amounts of effort and funds. And as it turns out, quite a few people are opposed to the idea.
News of the $1 billion raised to help rebuild the Notre Dame has sparked outrage among Paris’s yellow vest protestors, bringing the movement back to the surface. The yellow vest movement, comprised of groups of people from the lower and middle classes, initially began in 2018 as a protest against government tax reforms. According to them, the money could be put to better use by alleviating poverty in Paris.
In protest, many held signs pointing out the hypocrisy of the wealthy who eagerly donate money for the cathedral, but turn a blind eye to the increasing numbers of homelessness in their city. One sign read, “Everything for Notre Dame, nothing for Les Misérables,” while another targeting President Macron read “Pyromaniac – we are going to carbonize you.” To further their protests, the yellow-vests have taken to the streets, setting fires along a march route and barricading roads and transportation systems in order to call for the government’s attention.
The recent movement has inspired a flourish of anti-rich themes and messages on social media, criticizing the wealthy for their ignorance. Many agree that while the Notre Dame holds monumental importance, the welfare of human beings needs to be prioritized over mere stones.
As of now, many things are still in the dark regarding the initial incident, such as the exact cause of the fire, damage of displays and artworks, or the final collective cost to restore it. However, it can be expected that the government will proceed with the rebuilding process, and President Macron is scheduled to deliver a speech regarding policies in response to the protestors.
Joyce Kim, Grade 9
La Canada High School