As I’m sure everyone is aware of by now, the iconic Notre Dame of Paris tragically caught on fire last week, destroying the roof and toppling the spire. What could’ve been a tremendous loss of history and culture was averted thanks to the efforts of the many first responders who were able to save all artworks and artifacts.

While there’s much to repair, the main structure still stands and dozens of priceless artifacts are safe. While the damage could’ve been so much worse, tens of millions of dollars poured in to help rebuild the decades old cathedral. This brings about the question: where was all this money when other disasters have happened?

As a history major, I’ll be one of the first people to tell you that the preservation of historical places and artifacts is very important. Personally, I was upset at the news of the fire but relieved when I found out most of everything was saved. I applaud the governments and companies across the world for donating to the French government in order to rebuild Notre Dame back to its original glory. I agree it needs to be rebuilt -- so much history and culture is held in that one building. It would be a shame to just let it rot away.

But, if these multi-billion dollar companies are able to pledge a couple million to the rebuilding of Notre Dame, why couldn’t they step in when tragedy struck in other places of the world? For example, Puerto Rico is still recovering from the natural disasters that hit the island a few years ago. The people of Puerto Rico were in desperate need of assistance, and while many generous donations were made, the response wasn't nearly as quick as the response to Notre Dame.

I understand these companies are unable to go around to every problem in the world and donate millions of dollars because then they wouldn’t be multi-billion dollar companies, but if they can spare a few million for a historical monument, they can spare at least $1 million for people in desperate need.  

It all comes down to what people care about. I read that a wealthy Frenchman was one of the first to donate a large sum of money, which makes sense why this man would care about Notre Dame. Notre Dame was and is an important part of French history, culture, religion and pride, so of course this man would feel compelled to donate. People, and people running large companies across the world, felt the same; they decided Notre Dame was something they cared enough about.

So here’s a thought: what if people cared for others the same way they cared about things such as Notre Dame? Imagine if we cared for others above everything else. Disasters could be much less disastrous. Of course, money can’t fix all human problems, but if people cared enough about what happens to other people, perhaps we could at least make a larger impact for those affected by things out of their control than we currently are. This includes earth preservation. Imagine the efforts that could be made if everyone cared about saving the environment.  

Of course, I’m in no way undermining the importance of Notre Dame. People should care about it, and it’s refreshing to see so many people care about the historical and sacred site. I’m happy to see donations to help rebuild it, and I’m not saying we should take those funds away.

The reaction and response to the fire at Notre Dame shows what humans are capable of when they care about something and rally behind it despite nationality. Perhaps if we could all care this much about other tragedies throughout the world, we could make a bigger impact.


The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily of The Torch.  

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