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The Emotion of Notre Dame

Emmanuel Macron's skillful response to the recent fire that engulfed Notre Dame cathedral has given the French president a much-needed political respite. But the positive emotions that emerge following such momentous events are usually intense and short-lived, and this time will probably be no different.

PARIS – People were chanting, praying, and crying, or just frozen in total disbelief, as the flames engulfed “their” cathedral of Notre Dame, the object of their individual and collective memory. The emotions of those who witnessed the fire in Paris on April 15 and 16 have been echoed around the world. Let us hope that this global outpouring of empathy in response to a tragedy will have lasting positive effects, in France and beyond.

Not since the two terrorist attacks that bloodied the French capital in 2015 had I received as many messages of sympathy (and interview requests) as I did after the fire broke out. They came from Australia, Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and many other countries.

The fire also prompted an immediate rush of generous financial contributions to help rebuild the cathedral, not only from France, where hundreds of millions of euros were pledged in just one day, but from across the globe. In America in particular, wealthy donors were quick to support the cathedral that had rung its bells in grief for the victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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