Sacre’ Bleu! Broken Sub Contract Sinks U.S. And French Relations To Historic Low

Going down? That’s what subs do. And because of subs, relations between the U.S. and its oldest ally, France, have plummeted to the depths. France feels betrayed and has recalled its ambassador. Yikes! How did this long-standing alliance get torpedoed?

The story begins back in 2016 as Australia sought to replace its aging Collins-class, diesel-electric subs. Several bidders were in the competition for the contract which France, a major global weapons exporter, ultimately won over Germany and Japan. And this was quite the lucrative contract–90 billion (that’s billion with a “B”) Australian dollars. France’s majority state-owned Naval Group was selected to build twelve conventional diesel-electric subs for Australia, winning what has been dubbed “the contract of the century.”

While all that is interesting, note a conspicuous absence from the story. Uncle Sam is nowhere to be seen. Well, that is until mid-September 2021, some five years after the award of the sub contract to France. On the ides of September, the Australian government formally notified the French government it was cancelling the $90 billion contract. But wait, there’s more! To add insult to injury, in place of the cancelled contract was a new arrangement Australia had entered into with the U.S. and the U.K. to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

In another blow to France, President Biden revealed last week that the U.S. was entering into a new security alliance with Australia and the U.K. which included the delivery of at least eight nuclear-powered subs to the Australian fleet. The alliance is an attempt to strengthen stability in the Indo-Pacific region where China has been expanding its military might and influence. France, of course, felt left out because it sees itself as a major power in that area because of its overseas territories there, such as French Polynesia, which give it an unrivaled strategic and military foothold compared to other European nations.

What’s a snubbed country country to do? Cancel the party the other countries’ representatives had been invited to, of course. French officials in Washington, D.C. promptly called off a Friday evening gala at their compound to celebrate the 240th anniversary of the Battle of the Capes. As we all clearly recall from U.S. History class (NOTE: sarcasm font in use), this battle was a decisive naval engagement during the American Revolution in which France played a major role.

Still fuming, France fanned the diplomatic crisis flames by recalling its ambassadors from both the U.S. (au revoir, Philippe Etienne!) and from Australia. French President Emanuel Macron ordered the recall so the two ambassadors could return to the home country (Viva la France!) for “consultation.” The withdrawal of the French ambassador from the U.S. marked the first time in the history of U.S./French relations that such a step has been taken.

And, of course, there’s always name-calling to be done when someone’s angry. The French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, has characterized the actions President Biden has taken in this situation as something Trump would do. Ouch! Likening Biden to Trump? Egad!

So why, five years after entering into a contract with France, did Australia suddenly ditch the French and take up with the Americans and Brits causing all this diplomatic disgruntlement? The contract cancellation will cost Australia $1.7 billion (that’s billion with a “B”), so one would assume that they have a pretty good reason for taking this step.

According to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the move was necessitated by the deteriorating strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific region, an area where China’s massive military buildup has increased in pace in recent years. Morrison concluded the capability of the conventional subs France was contracted to deliver would not meet Australia’s strategic needs; nuclear-powered subs were required instead to counter Chinese nuclear-powered vessels. I’m no military expert, but it seems common sense that you fight fire with fire. Morrison stressed he had to make the decision which was in the best interest of his country’s security.

While the French feel betrayed by this contract cancellation, the manner in which Australia went about it has also stirred anger. Apparently Australia was in secret talks for at least 18 months with the U.S. and the U.K. about a such a step. So much for French intelligence. But, in their defense, they were probably monitoring the Chinese, a perceived enemy, rather than their allies. Morrison has brushed off claims of the French being caught off guard by this news. He states he told French President Emanuel Macron in June about “very real issues about whether a conventional submarine capability” would address Australia’s strategic security needs. Just my two cents, but June was three months ago, and secret talks went on for over 18 months. What about the other 15 or so months?

In the meantime, the subs Australia has contracted for this time are not expected to be delivered until 2040. While these subs are being built in Adelaide in cooperation with the U.S. and the U.K., Australia will lease nuclear subs from the U.S. Hopefully, by the time the subs are completed in about 20 years, things will have settled down and the U.S. and France will be on better terms.

Australia’s sub decision has not gone over well with the Chinese either. They are angry Australia has opted to acquire nuclear-powered subs and is ticked off that Australia, the U.S., and the U.K. have formed an “extremely irresponsible” security alliance. No matter what a country decides to do, some other country will be upset about it. Making the Chinese happy is not tops on (or even close to being on) the U.S. to do list, but it is sad long-time ally France got the short end of the stick in the interest of Aussie national security.

As technologically advanced as weapons such as subs are today, they are only needed because of human failings. If we can make the scientific wonder of a nuclear-powered sub, why can’t we figure out how to get along with others? Think of the billions of dollars that could be saved on weapons contracts if nations could simply be civil neighbors. But then, what squabbles would the media have to highlight?

WONDER-ing Woman:

Is breaking a contract ever justified? If so, is national security a valid reason for doing so? Does France have a right to be angry by how its long-time ally the U.S. handled matters? Should the U.S. be taking steps to repair its relationship with France?

Don’t Lose Your Head Celebrating Bastille Day!

 

Are you ready for it? The holiday with parades and fireworks, and everyone is sporting the colors red, white, and blue? No, it isn’t the Fourth of July. It’s le 14 Juillet; in English it’s the 14th of July, more familiarly known as Bastille Day. This Sunday the French will storm the streets to commemorate the storming of the Bastille and the birth of their republic. Let’s celebrate with them!

First of all, we should know exactly what we are celebrating. Le 14 Juillet is the French equivalent of America’s Fourth of July. It is France’s national day, formally called la Fete Nationale. For those who have forgotten their world history, July 14th is the anniversary of a mob (no, not the godfather’s mob, a peasant mob) assault on the Bastille back in 1789. The taking of the Bastille marked the start of the French Revolution leading to a new form of government for France. Out with the monarchy!  And off with the king’s head in the process.

So what exactly is the Bastille? “Bastille” originates from the French word for stronghold. The Bastille of Bastille Day fame was a prison in Paris originally built as a medieval fortress. The structure, which had eight towers and was surrounded by a moat, had enough space to hold 50 prisoners. In 1789, the Bastille was known for holding political prisoners on the outs with the royal government headed by King Louis XVI. The prison became the symbol for the Bourbon monarchy’s harsh and oppressive rule of French citizens.

The regular (not royal) French citizens were suffering from severe food shortages at the time. Seemingly oblivious to his subjects’ difficulties, Louis XVI lived a lavish lifestyle in Versailles. His wife, Marie Antoinette, was not too popular either. She was seen as arrogant and uncaring. If she didn’t utter the famous words attributed to her, “Let them eat cake,” she was thinking thoughts along those lines. Personally, I don’t believe Marie Antoinette was quoted correctly. She spoke French after all; she would have said something like “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” according to historians.

So what’s a ticked off group of hungry, angry French citizens to do? A flash mob! No, not the modern flash mob. A mob of them went marching over to the Bastille to hunt for gunpowder, which causes a flash when a gun is fired. Serendipitously for the seven prisoners being held at the time, the attack on the prison allowed for them to be set free. The governor of the prison was also set free–of his head–by the menacing mob.

King Louis XVI was informed that a revolution was underway. He probably shook his head at the audacity of these peasants. Well, they were audacious all right. A mere week later, on July 21, 1789, the king was beheaded by guillotine in front of a Parisian crowd. The revolutionaries were acting like animals and could have been singing “Louie Louie” for all we know. Louis’ wife, mean old Marie, lasted a bit longer. She was spared for almost three months but was ultimately beheaded by guillotine in the same location that her husband lost both his head and his life.

Bastille Day was not declared a French national holiday until July 6, 1880. Today Bastille Day is a French national holiday; schools and businesses are closed in honor of the big day. Although the holiday is French in origin, observances of the day are not just held in France. French territories such as French Polynesia, Martinique (in the Caribbean), French Guiana (in South America), and Wallis and Futuna (an island group in the South Pacific) celebrate Bastille Day as well.

Even Americans take note of Bastille Day with a number of cities, such as New York, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Milwaukee among others, conducting Bastille Day celebrations. In St. Louis, the Chatillion-DeMenil Mansion holds an annual Bastille Day festival complete with a reenactment of the beheading of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Hopefully dummy figures and not real actors are placed in the guillotine….

Bastille Day celebrations in France typically begin on Bastille Day Eve with dances. A giant dance party, the Bal du 14 Juillet, is traditionally held in Paris on the evening of July 13th at the location where the Bastille once stood and was stormed. The dance has a different theme each year, and attendees wear costumes and enjoy live music. Nothing like remembering mayhem and bloodshed to put you in a mood for a party, huh?

A huge military parade starts in Paris at 10:00 a.m. on the morning of July 14th. Broadcast on French TV, the parade is led by the French president (currently Emmanuel Macron) and features French jets flying overhead. The French Foreign Legion brings up the rear. Proceeding down the Champs-Elysee, the parade wends its way from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, the largest square in the French capital. Fittingly, this square, covering 21 acres situated along the Seine River, was the site of many public beheadings during the French Revolution, including Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

The Bastille Day military parade has been conducted annually since 1880 and is the oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe. Since World War I, the Champs-Elysees has been the venue for the parade. Nevertheless, during the German occupation (1940-1944) General Charles de Gaulle headed the celebration in London.

Apparently Bastille Day has no traditional food associated with it, but the French do enjoy partaking of food on this holiday. Afternoon picnics outdoors are a popular way to celebrate. The French can indulge in wine and cheese indoors or out. It wouldn’t hurt to serve cake just to stick it to the memory of Marie Antoinette, right mes amis?

Bastille Day ends with a bang–literally. Actually, there are lots of bangs heard. These sounds are produced by the huge fireworks show put on by the City of Paris.

I somehow doubt the revelers on France’s national day are thinking  about the rabblerousers storming the Bastille when they see fireworks bursting above them. Maybe the French aren’t so different from Americans. Confess. You weren’t really think about American history while watching bombs bursting in air on July 4th, were you? Let’s not lose our heads, figuratively, when it comes to celebrating a national day. Use that brain in your head to remember what the holiday signifies.

JUST WONDER-ing:

Were you aware of the historical significance of Bastille Day? Would you attend a Bastille Day celebration if one were held in your area? What’s the proper way to celebrate a country’s national day?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women’s World Cup–A Kick In L’herbe

Love might be what’s in the air in Paris in the springtime, but soccer is what’s on Parisians’ minds this summer. France is hosting the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup now through July 7th. Even if you aren’t a soccer fan, there’s plenty to keep you entertained with this tournament. The event’s a real kick in the grass–or l’herbe if you speak French.

More into economic news than sports scores? Keep an eye on a big match ahead. The defending champions, the U.S. team, plays the host team, France, on Friday in a quarterfinal match at Parc des Princes in Paris. The face value for tickets to this match runs a reasonable $17 to $65 for world class action on the grass–er, l’herbe. But demand is high for these tickets. What happens when demand exceeds supply? You guessed it. The price for the supply skyrockets. Tickets are now being hawked on Stubhub.com for between $425 and $5,100. Forget grass. You’ll need loads of bread to afford those tickets.

Maybe you are more of a science fan than a soccer fan. The Women’s World Cup is being played under fascinating meteorological conditions. Earlier this week an intense heat wave built across portions of France. More than half of the country (including around Paris) is under an orange alert, the second highest intensity for potentially dangerous weather conditions. Forecasters are predicting France could set a new national heat record of around 113 degrees. The old record, set in 2003, was 111. This record-setting heat wave will provide high temperatures and humidity for the players to endure on the field as well as for the fans in the stands to stand. With a capacity crowd of 47,929 expected at Parc des Princes, thousands of fans will be longing for some fans blowing cool air on them.

Those who enjoy U.S. political news will not be disappointed with the Women’s World Cup. Although he is neither playing in it nor attending it, President Donald Trump is still grabbing headlines related to the tournament. He and the U.S. women’s team co-captain, Megan Rapinoe, are engaging in a war of words. Who? If you aren’t a sports fan, you may not be familiar with Megan Rapinoe’s name. But she sure is easy to spot on the field. She’s the player in the U.S. team uniform with light pink hair. Along with athletic workouts, Rapinoe prepared for the big even by dyeing her blond hair. Maybe she was feeling in the pink about the U.S. team’s chances of winning and wanted to look in the pink as well.

Although news reports haven’t focused on Rapinoe’s hair color, they have brought to President Trump’s attention that the U.S. team’s co-captain has for several years remained silent during the national anthem to protest inequality and injustice. Her silent protest continued when the “Star Spangled Banner” was played before the U.S. team’s opening match against Thailand. Trump did not feel this behavior was respectful and blasted Rapinoe on Twitter. Rapinoe shot back that she wouldn’t go to the “f***ing” White House if the team won the World Cup. Trump retorted Rapinoe should win first before worrying about celebrating at the White House. Anyone else feel like they are following a tennis match here? Don’t both Trump and Rapinoe have something better to do than tweet? Like run the country and prepare for the most anticipated match of the World Cup to date respectively?

Fans of reality TV shows, which always seem to involve squabbling and controversy, haven’t been disappointed with the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The match between England and Cameroon didn’t have “Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Boys,” but the losing team’s women exhibited some bad behavior. FIFA will be investigating the match as a result.

In case you missed it, England won the round of 16 match against Cameroon by a score of 3-0. But the real story of the game was the Cameroon players’ actions towards the referee and opposing players. They didn’t want to kick the ball on the grass; they pretty much made clear that they’d like to kick the poor official and their opponents. One Cameroon player was caught on video spitting toward an English player. Really? These are ADULTS playing? The players also showed their disenchantment with some officiating calls by deliberately fouling several players, refusing to kick off for several minutes, and arguing with the ref while huddled around the official. I don’t know if they forgot about trying to hold their breath until they turned blue….

The Women’s World Cup also provides the opportunity to sharpen one’s geographical knowledge. Interestingly, the group from which the U.S. emerged from the knockout round was comprised of four teams, all from a different continent. These teams were the U.S. (North American), Chile (South America), Thailand (Asia), and Sweden (Europe). Of the eight quarterfinalists left from the original field of 24, seven teams are from Europe–England, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. The lone non-European team remaining is the U.S.

OK, sure, these are all large countries that (hopefully) most people might be able to pick out on a map. But what about the venues for the soccer matches in France?  Nine different stadiums are to be utilized during the tournament. Raise your hand if you can pick THESE locations out on a map of France: Grenoble, Le Havre, Lyon, Montpellier, Nice, Paris, Reims, Rennes, Valenciennes. I may not be able to pick it out exactly on a map, but I do recall from taking four years of French in high school that Nice is on the Cote d’Azur, the French Riviera. Sign me up to go there whether there’s a soccer game or not!

For all you material girls (or boys) out there, the World Cup provides a sparkly (and expensive) prize for the winner. To the victor goes a trophy. No, not just any trophy. A big, heavy, costly trophy. Whatever teams is left standing after the final match will be awarded a 19″ tall trophy weighing 10 pounds. Sterling silver and 23-karat yellow and white gold were utilized to make this shiny award. Yes, the Americans can truthfully say that they are going for the gold in this World Cup. Not a medal, but a magnificent trophy.

Only time will tell who will hoist that heavy trophy in the air come July 7th. In the meantime, let’s wring all we can out of the Women’s World Cup. We’ve got economics, weather, politics, geography, boorish behavior, and last but not least, some kick in l’herbe exciting sports play. I’ll be chanting “USA! USA!” as I peruse a map of France from my very affordable seat in front of my television with the AC running come Friday’s match against France. How about you?

JUST WONDER-ing:

Have you watched any of the 2019 Women’s World Cup or at least read about it? If you aren’t a sports fan, do you think you could still enjoy reading about or watching such a big world event? How important is good sportsmanship? Is the playing field the appropriate venue for political protests? Why or why not?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wrapping Our Heads Around World Geography

We Americans like to think we are so smart. Why even tiny tots in this country know how to use a cell phone, change TV channels with  a remote, and play games on an iPad. Nevertheless, Americans are woefully deficient when it comes to knowledge of geography. We probably couldn’t figure out where Carmen Sandiego was on a map even if we were told the city and country where she was located.

My lack of geographical proficiency was brought to my attention back in April when I was in Washington, D.C. playing tourist. On my tourist bucket list was going down Embassy Row to check out all the foreign embassies. While I recognized the names of all the countries and could place them on the correct continent, I realized that I likely couldn’t point some of them out on a map or give pertinent information about them.

Let’s take Malawi, for example. Ding, ding, ding. Of course Malawi is in Africa. I knew that. OK, but what else do I know about Malawi–other than how to spell it? Um, nothing. Trying to rectify my ignorance, I pulled out a trusty geography textbook–not. I took a modern approach and did research about Malawi online. Perhaps one reason that I (and most likely you too) don’t know about Malawi is that it is among the world’s least developed countries; its economy is heavily based on agriculture. But surely you’re familiar with the country’s capital of Lilongwe. OK, OK. I didn’t know that either. Nor did I know off the top of my head that Malawi is a landlocked country in southeast Africa. Hanging my head in shame.

At least if I am geographically ignorant, I am in good company. The younger generation has been documented to be appallingly lacking in general geographic knowledge. In fact, nearly 75% of 8th graders tested below proficient in geography on the 2014 National Assessment Of Education Progress exam. And why should they be proficient? A majority of states today do not require geography courses in middle school or high school. Who needs such classes? I mean we all have a GPS on our cell phone, right? Siri can tell us where a city or country is located if we must know.

Sure we can rely on electronic devices to give us needed geographical information. But our understanding of the world around us and what is happening in it is much deeper if we know where current events are taking place. A truly informed person will have a basic understanding of not only WHAT is going on but WHERE it is occurring.

Let’s look at some news headlines from the past week to see what geographical locations we might need to know about. Anyone know where Fukuoka is and why it is in the news? More basic than that–WHAT is Fukuoka? Well, it’s a city which, before this week, I’d never heard of. I might have guessed it was in Japan, and I’d have been right. To my surprise I learned that Fukuoka is the sixth largest city in Japan. It’s located on the island of Kyushu, one of Japan’s largest islands.

Fukuoka was in the news because it was the setting for a meeting of the G-20 finance ministers. These economic bigwigs, including U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, needed to put their heads together to discuss revisions to trade rules and finances in light of technological change and protectionism. Given clashes between the U.S. and China (which countries we can ALL find on a map or globe) over trade and technology, the finance ministers are concerned about upsets to the global economy. Not sure why Fukuoka in particular was chosen for the meeting venue, although finance and Fukuoka both do begin with the letter “F.”

Not interested in world politics? How about sports? If so, you should know about Reims. Again, this is not a city about which I have ever heard. Reims is located about 85 miles northeast of Paris and is the unofficial capital of the Champagne wine-producing region. While I’m fairly sure we’ve all heard about that area, I doubt many of us could mark the spot where it’s located with an X on a map.

Some champagne was likely uncorked in Reims Tuesday when the U.S. opened its defense of the Women’s World Cup title with a win in a match against Thailand. Hurray for the red, white and blue! They blew away their opponent by a wide margin–13-0. This score is the most lopsided victory in World Cup history for either men or women. Shall we say the Thais got reamed? Or maybe Reimsed?

For those interested in planning a trip, recent news stories would give one pause when considering the Dominican Republic as a vacation destination. Perhaps you might want to know where that country is located so you can avoid it. Since last year several American tourists have suddenly fallen ill and died while at resorts in this Caribbean location. Furthermore, Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz was the victim of an attempted murder Sunday night outside a popular nightspot in his hometown of Santo Domingo, the country’s capital and largest city.

Looks like this island’s life involves death or brushes with it.Other than that, an informed person should know that the Dominican Republic is on the island of Hispaniola, an island it shares with Haiti. By area, the Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean nation after Cuba.

Let’s face it. The world may seem to be shrinking because we can probably call anyone anywhere in the world on a cell phone, connect with someone in a foreign country via the Internet, and see what’s happening on another continent in real time on CNN. But the seemingly smaller world contains people with large gaps in their geographical knowledge.

Sure, we can’t know everything about every place. But a good start to becoming geographically proficient is to take the time to determine where a place in the news is and some general information about it. And if we really want to go all out, we might consider having our kids taught some geography before they are sent out into the big wide world as adults.

JUST WONDER-ing: Did you take a geography class in high school? Do you think that geography should be a required subject? How geographically proficient do you think you are?

 

 

 

 

 

Holy Smoke!

 

Look! Up in the sky above Paris. It’s smoke. No, it’s HOLY smoke! The historic Notre Dame Cathedral went up in flames on Monday.

While people enjoy reading about hot topics, the cathedral fire is one hot topic which will not be pleasurable. Notre Dame is more than a tourist attraction or a religious site; it is a symbol of France itself. In fact, France owns Notre Dame, but the Catholic Church has  the exclusive right to use it for religious purposes in perpetuity. [“In perpetuity” is a fancy schmancy legal term meaning continuing forever.]

Because of the fire, there’s one less item on my bucket list. I won’t be able to travel to Paris and gaze upon this UNESCO World Heritage site which attracts approximately 13 million tourists every year. Notre Dame boasts nearly double the tourists visiting the Eiffel Tower–which at last report was still standing.

What’s so special about Notre Dame? Well, for one thing, it is old. Really old. Its cornerstone was laid in 1163, and the structure was built over the course of 200 years; it was completed in 1345. Notre Dame’s famous gargoyles were added in 1240 to serve a less scarier than might be expected purpose, i.e., to act as rain spouts. The Gothic cathedral’s wood and lead spire was built during a mid-19th century restoration. Its towers were the tallest structures in Paris until the Eiffel Tower was completed in 1889.

Not only is Notre Dame extremely old, but it has seen and been a part of numerous historic events. The church was desecrated during the French Revolution. (Apparently eating cake and destroying holy sites were the thing back then.) Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned Emperor of France inside Notre Dame in 1804 and married in the cathedral as well. Notre Dame’s bells were rung to mark the end of both World War I and World War II.

Speaking of bells, fire bells rang when the fire was first reported to emergency services as a blaze in the cathedral’s attic. More than 400 fireman ultimately responded in an attempt to extinguish the inferno. French President Emmanuel Macron even postponed a major speech to his nation to rush to the scene as rescue efforts were ongoing. Those efforts resulted in Notre Dame’s famous 18th century organ and its 8,000 pipes surviving the inferno.

Hopefully, Emmanuel, Marie, Gabriel, Anne Genevieve, Denis, Marcel, Etienne, Maurice, Jean-Marie, and Benoit-Joseph came through the disaster unscathed. No, those aren’t church employees, they are the cathedral’s ten bells. Given the extent of destruction, I am sure this was not simply a five alarm blaze but a ten bell blaze.

Notre Dame is not only old and historic, but it’s an architectural gem. Architects view Notre Dame as the finest example of French Gothic architecture. The structure is famed for its carved stone gargoyles, the flying buttresses which hold up its walls, and its stained glass windows. Thankfully, Notre Dame’s three thirteenth century rose windows survived the blaze, although they may be a bit rosier thanks to the heat of the fire.

In addition to its age, history, and architecture, Notre Dame is famed as a repository of religious relics and works of art.  In a testament to man’s determination, a human chain, which included the chaplain of the Paris Fire Brigade, formed to remove these items from the blazing structure. One relic saved was The Crown of Thorns which is believed to be a piece of what Jesus wore when he was crucified. Many rescued items were moved to the Louvre for safe keeping. Hopefully, the Louvre is more fireproof than the cathedral.

Notre Dame, situated on a small island in the Seine River in the center of Paris, is the setting for various creative works. It was the stomping grounds for Quasimodo, Notre Dame’s bell ringer in Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a French Gothic novel published in 1831. Today the video game “Assassin’s Creed Unity” prominently features Notre Dame. I don’t know anything about the game, but hopefully it didn’t involve burning the structure down.

It’s too soon for the cause of the fire to have been pinpointed. The cathedral was undergoing an extensive $6.8 million renovation, so the fire potentially may be linked to that ongoing activity. Scenes from the fire clearly showed scaffolding around the structure. Those are two things I definitely want to avoid–being on a scaffold and in a fire! And forget doing both at the same time.

The flames have been extinguished, but a smoldering mess remains. The cathedral’s spire collapsed Monday evening, and its roof was ravaged. The medieval wooden interior of the structure was gutted. But in a vivid picture of hope and faith, the golden altar cross remained standing in the charred cathedral. The fires of hell and of  Notre Dame could not overcome it.

French President Macron has already vowed Notre Dame will be rebuilt. Actress Salma Hayek’s billionaire husband and his father announced plans to donate $113 million (of course, they’ll donate in Euros) towards that goal. Multiple millionaires have likewise pledged money for a rebuilding effort. Money towards rebuilding has poured in like water hoses turned on the burning cathedral; $600 million Euros were raised overnight.

The rebuilding effort will be aided by the latest and greatest technology. Before his death, art historian Andrew Tallon made 3-D laser maps of every detail on Notre Dame. Additionally, game artists and historians working on “Assassin’s Creed Unity” spent about two years getting the details of the cathedral just right, including where pictures hung on the walls.

While Notre Dame can be rebuilt, it will never be what it was before the fire. In a matter of a few hours, hundreds of years of history were wiped out. Let’s not take for granted sites of historical significance whether in Paris or somewhere in the U.S.A. Appreciate these sites while you can because you never know how long we will have them. Disaster can strike without warning at any time.

Notre Dame is a church, and a very important one, but the cathedral is just a building. People of faith make up the real church, and that church will withstand all sorts of disasters. A symbol of its endurance is the golden cross on the soot-tinged altar at Notre Dame. That cross survived the Notre Dame fire, but The Cross miraculously overcame death at Easter. Holy Smoke!

JUST WONDER-ing: Do people today value historical sites? Have you been to Notre Dame? If so, what about it spoke to you? Did you want to go to Notre Dame but never got the chance? Would you go if/when the cathedral is rebuilt?