Everyone who visited Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris has a tale to tell. From the people who were in awe of its majestic size, to those who braved the crowds to climb the towers, after the fire that devastated the structure these tales were shared far and wide. It was a catharsis, a way of expressing sorrow and sharing an experience on a global scale.
My own tale is one of two visits. The first, with one of my Twins in August 2014, was supposed to be a trip with them both to celebrate the end of their GCSEs. A few days before we were due to leave, the younger fell ill and was left at home with the promise of a later trip. Anuradha and I stayed in a hotel a short walk from the cathedral and every day we went past it. The long queues put us off going inside. Neither of us have patience for waiting.
A few months later, Sharmila was recovered and once more a hotel near the cathedral became our home. Again the queues were off-putting and we kept walking by.
Then one evening we saw no queues and open doors. We took our chance. Not being religious we had no idea were were about to walk in on a service.
We didn’t get the chance to explore the structure, only stand near the door with a throng of fellow opportunists. Some way away the service was happening and it echoed around the chamber. We were asked to be silent, take our photos in silence and leave quickly.
There are far better photographs than the one I snapped quickly on my phone that evening. Some are far worse. Yet every one that was taken on a visit by a tourist or as part of a shoot by a professional is part of the shared memory and experience we have of a once might building turned ruin.