When the iconic cathedral was nearly lost to flames, the wave of grief was felt across the Atlantic as donations came rolling in
As news broke on 15 April 2019 that the roof of the French cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris was on fire, phones immediately started ringing at the offices of the French Heritage Society, executive director Jennifer Herlein recalls. People, most of them Americans, some in tears, were offering donations to rebuild the beloved gothic monument.
We cannot imagine a world without Paris, and we cannot imagine a Paris without Notre-Dame, the French Heritage Society had said in its call for funds. It was right.
The French Heritage Society has so far received $2.45m in donations, mostly from the US (including $2m from the Este Lauder estate), and the funds keep coming. Donations also suddenly poured into the American charity Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris, established in 2017 to gather funds for the monuments restoration. From 800 donors who had donated $2m before the fire, the figures jumped to 10,000, who gave an additional $6m, its president, Michel Picaud, said. For both charities, 95% of the donations came from the US.
Notre-Dame embodies millennia of French history, art and architecture. When it was almost lost to flames, France held its breath in horror but why was this wave of grief felt so gravely across the Atlantic, too?
American citizens agreed: with their donations, many sent heartfelt, personal notes. My 99 year old mother asked me to send this donation to the Notre-Dame Fire Restoration Fund. She was deeply touched by the beauty and history of this historic French icon when she visited Paris many years ago, one read. My husband and I spent several hours inside Notre-Dame cathedral and on its parapets in October 1965, read another. Like much of the rest of us who love Paris, I wept at the news and the videos of the fire.
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