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PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 15: In this handout image provided by Brigade de sapeurs-pompiers de Paris, firefighters battle the blaze at Notre-Dame Cathedral on April 15, 2019 in Paris, France. A fire broke out on Monday afternoon and quickly spread across the building, collapsing the spire. The cause is yet unknown but officials said it was possibly linked to ongoing renovation work. (Photo by Benoît Moser/BSPP via Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 15: In this handout image provided by Brigade de sapeurs-pompiers de Paris, firefighters battle the blaze at Notre-Dame Cathedral on April 15, 2019, in Paris, France. A fire broke out on Monday afternoon and quickly spread across…

France dawns with a broken heart after the Notre Dame fire

The image of the flaming roof of the iconic building has hit the country’s heart, at a time when symbolisms are increasingly important.

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LYON. - Shortly after noon, all the French telephones sounded in unison. "Have you seen the Paris thing?” "What's wrong with Notre Dame?"

The questions began to circulate with that thread of anxiety that paints international communications between loved ones after September 11, 2001.

The images of red tongues eating the roof of the medieval cathedral were tragically hypnotizing. When opening the windows - as if you could find a sign almost 500 kilometers away - the city was silent, interrupted by distant echoes from the news channels.

Once again we were all witnesses of destruction thanks to the televised reality.

The fire had not been “intentional.”

The regional leadership of the judiciary police in Paris said it had opened an investigation under the statute of "involuntary destruction by fire" after something ignited the scaffolding restoration of the building shortly after noon.

Several hundred firefighters tried to contain the flames at the risk of the entire roof falling on them. Six hours later, the Paris sky was marked with a huge black cloud, and in its streets, the passers-by paused, paralyzed with a heavy heart.

Shortly before 8 p.m., we all witnessed as the emblematic needle of Viollet-le-Duc collapsed engulfed in flames, and the whole country stifled a cry.

Iconoclasts downplayed the fact that "a church was burning in the 21st century,” while most French saw in real time how one of their most important historical symbols was left forever disfigured.

Notre Dame is not only one of the most iconic sculptural achievements in the history of mankind - with its vault, incredible rosettes and gargoyles that inspired Victor Hugo and his Hunchback - but was also witness to epic moments, such as the crowning of Henry VI of England in 1429, the coronation of Napoleon in 1804, or the beatification of Joan of Arc.

Notre Dame is imprinted in the collective imagination, and represents the reach of humanity, for better or for worse.

The president of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, along with several powerful families of the country, has proposed an initiative to collect funds to "rebuild the Cathedral, all together."

Its disfigurement joins now the destruction of the Temple of Bel in Palmyra (Syria) in 2015, the museum in Mosul in 2017, and the fire of the National Museum of Brazil in 2018 as terrible milestones in what appears to be the century in which mankind insists on erasing its own history.

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