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When words fail

April 16, 2019

Like most people watching the world-wide news coverage of the terrible fire that recently struck Notre-Dame de Paris, I was shocked and saddened by what I saw from thousands of miles away. The stunned onlookers actually there seemed completely dumbfounded, viewing the fall of the iconic spire in horrified silence. I'm sure I would have reacted the very same way. There were news interviews with some of those witnesses, of course, but how could anyone really, truly describe what it had been like to witness such a tragedy?  

There were no words, as the saying goes.  

But of course there are always words, and perhaps the most fitting description of the event was when a group of Parisians stood nearby the great cathedral afterwards and lifted their voices in song.  

There was no better way to express the emotion of the event, the grief and the hope and the faith and the tragedy of the fire, in a way that moved anyone listening. In a way that helped others watching around the world deal with their own feelings about what they'd seen. 

There will, of course, be many more accounts of the event and its aftermath, in news reports and published investigations and books and yes, even songs. But the pure and unfiltered reaction in the moment is what I will always remember, and I suspect many others will, too.  

In the ghostwriting business, I am used to speaking with clients who have suffered tremendous tragedy and turmoil, people who have overcome great adversity and suffering. Many clients are memoir clients, and the motivation to share their stories is powerful, often serving the same noble purpose as those who sang for Notre-Dame de Paris: To both rid themselves of their burden and help those who have known similar suffering. To tell the world, and others like them, that they too can emerge from the ashes of dark times to lift their voices in song.  

There are always words, and there is always a way to go on.