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COLUMN: See the world's treasures before they're gone



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Inspectors are seen April 16 on the roof of the landmark Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris the day after a fire ripped through its main roof. Tribune News Service Buy Photos

Historic landmarks aren’t going to come to you. We all have places we want to visit and things we want to do. Rather than fulfilling these dreams, we store them away on our mental shelves and claim we’ll come back for them later.

We’re cheating ourselves. We give ourselves false hope we’ll do these things someday. “Someday” isn’t good enough. It takes too long and, in many cases, never comes. It’s important to do what you want in this world as quickly as possible because you never know what tomorrow brings.

Naturally one may wonder why the harm of a mindlessly uttered word could be debilitating. It’s because the word “someday” is perpetual. When we say “someday,” we feel a sense of false satisfaction because we think we’ve finally committed to crossing off a desire on our bucket lists.

As the flames broke skyward from the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, all I could think about was how thankful I was to have been able to see it before such a tragedy occurred.

As I watched the spiral give and topple down, I couldn’t help but feel I was watching someone’s dreams go up in smoke right then and there. Of course I felt sorry for France, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of absolute sorrow for anyone who desired to but couldn’t go see it.

I’m beyond thankful I was among some of the last people to ever see it in its historic, unscarred glory. Then I began to ponder what I could learn from such a tragedy.

It came to me in an instant. The raging inferno on the screen before me could have been any structure I dream of visiting one day. It could have been the Sistine Chapel, the Taj Mahal or even the Golden Gate Bridge.

These historic landmarks could go up in flames or tumble to the Earth any minute, never to be seen in person again.

I then thought about the structures I’ve been fortunate enough to visit. I thought about Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the Tower Bridge and the Eiffel Tower. All of these structures could be gone tomorrow, but at least I’d have the caveat of knowing I saw them with my own eyes.

I watched as my TV showed me an iconic structure burning in an unforgiving inferno. Notre Dame survived the French Revolution and German occupation during WWII. Sadly its demise was as mundane as a simple accident, and Paris’ silhouette was forever changed.

By the time the flames began to fizzle out, I learned one more lesson from the fire at Notre Dame: If a landmark you hope to visit is under renovation, see it as quickly as you can.

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