Notre Dame Fire: Is It Really Just a Building?



Ashna Satpathy

On Monday, April 15th, the 800 year old, world famous, Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire, causing spectacular damage that left the world in shock. With artifacts, paintings, and architecture dating back centuries at risk of obliteration, how did the world respond to this shock? People, corporations, and billionaires opened their wallets, and in just two days almost a billion dollars was donated to rebuild the Notre Dame. But, were people’s gracious efforts worth it for just a building?

Celebrities, such as Pamela Anderson believe that this money could have been better spent on people that are actually suffering.

Following a fundraiser for Notre Dame at a soccer game in Marseille, Anderson tweeted: “Surely the children suffering in Marseille could have used the 100,000 € more than the church that has already received over a billion in donations by billionaires”

In response to this philanthropic controversy, French teacher Mr. Close explained that he is “not surprised that Notre Dame’s burning is raising billions of dollars.” However, he does “wish that people, as well as corporations, would give as much money to causes that are more humanitarian than cultural.” But, at the same time, he is also “delighted that there will be the money to reconstruct the cathedral.”

Junior Stephanie Pollock sees things similarly and explained that “it came as a bit of a shock how quickly the money got donated. It’s kind of crazy because it shows people’s values. Not that these donations are selfish, but it doesn’t seem like these people donate the same kind of money for other people’s needs because this money could have helped a bunch of people or even the environment”

Freshman Keely Moll said that “looking at the amount of money donated to Notre Dame proves that we have the power to fix some [humanitarian] problems.” Elaborating on Keely’s point, freshman Alanna Madry believes that “sometimes when other things come up people like to turn their heads and make excuses as to why they cant help with that, but for this, all the people that turned their heads before have donated all of this money”

However, sophomore Pamela Cameron feels that “it is really up to the companies and people and what they value” and “although [she] do[es] think that it’s important to take care of our planet, it’s not fair to judge donations because of what someone may value more.”

Similarly, junior Paige Hosbein agrees that “people all have different philanthropic pursuits that are up to them” and she “think[s] it was nice that they donated to the cathedral”

In any sense, why do people want to give so much money? Mr. Close thinks that “it’s a cause to which people can see a direct result of their giving and the good they’re doing”. But at the same time, he “feel[s] like it’s sad that they have to see a direct result to open their wallet and give huge sums of money.” Paige Hosbein added that it’s because the Notre Dame is “such a cherished and holy place place that managed to stand through two world wars.”

Regardless of whether you are critical of the Notre Dame being a magnet for philanthropy or are pleased with the graciousness of donors, the community’s economic response to the tragic fire is a testament to our deep seated desire to preserve history and human artistic achievement. The Notre Dame will not solve world hunger or poverty, but it does serve some greater purpose as it’s a symbol of resilience and French heritage.