You have to wonder if there was some sad soul in Paris who lived close enough to smell the flaming rooftop of Notre Dame Cathedral and yet had never had the opportunity to visit the historic site. “I’ll wait until the weather is better,” or “I’ll go when I’m not so busy,” or “It will be easier when my sore toe feels better.” What the stunning fire taught us is that if we don’t get out and support our local artists and historical sites now, they may not be here tomorrow.
Our Southern cultural treasures may not stack up to those in Notre Dame, but what would we miss if it vanished overnight? I’ve never been to the Grand Ole Opry, and if it disappeared tomorrow, I’d be kicking myself for not going when I had the chance. As the people of Mexico Beach know, relaxing days in the white sand with pink sunburnt tourists can come to a screeching halt with one vicious hurricane. The business owners in Gatlinburg have seen a fast-moving wildfire shut down family businesses overnight. What we enjoy today may be gone tomorrow.
Certainly, French children went on field trips to see the Cathedral, lined up two-by-two, a la Madeline, or perhaps their parents took them on weekends to see the priceless artwork or religious relics. But there’s always someone who puts things off, waiting and waiting until it’s too late.
We may be viewed as a cultural speck on the globe compared to internationally known sites, but how many times have we said we wanted to attend local choral concerts, community theatre or the children’s ballet, but stayed home instead with the remote control?
For years, my thrice-removed cousins dreamed of a romantic getaway to New Orleans. “You know, that’s where Rhett and Scarlett went on their honeymoon” Babs said, and Roy Ray added, “I want to hear bona fide live jazz music while I eat some of those powdery doughnuts.” Due to an unfortunate accident involving a distracted electric scooter operator (the kind at the Wal-Mart) and a frozen turkey, travel to the Big Easy now seems uneasy. Crutches and cobblestones don’t mix well, so it may be too late for a French Quarter getaway.
Supporting the region we’ve built is crucial to preserving our identity. If we don’t attend the fiddler’s festival or purchase local art, how will our Southern voice survive? Our idea of beauty has expanded and now, due to better educational opportunities and jobs, we can attend a world class symphony in London, then jet home to attend a high school band concert and somehow, have them both tug at our hearts.
The world cried when Notre Dame burned, but we also cry when the stained glass in our church is shattered in a tornado. Hearts would break if a Rembrandt was destroyed, yet many have felt sick to their stomachs when an antebellum home was knocked flat to make way for a convenience store. Thanks to the monumental loss in Paris, perhaps we’ll see fit to get out of the house and support our Southern story of struggle, conflict, triumph and beauty because like they say in Paris, “rien ne dure pour toujours” or . . . nothing lasts forever.
What’s on your list to see or do?
This story first appeared in the Mobile Press-Register, Brimingham News and the Huntsville Times on AL.com.