“Even the Great Cathedral suffered some damage, but was so important that it was restored to its remembered form. This gave many people comfort, because it was a symbol of continuity in a city that had been so transformed.

Everywhere along the streets, buildings that after the war had gaping holes in them had been rebuilt, but in a strange new way. First of all, people could not always remember how the buildings once looked—they were just ordinary buildings. Also, people realized that their city had changed in other ways, too. They decided the new parts of the surviving buildings should belong to the present, not the past. And to the future, which could not be remembered.

The present, people realized, and therefore the future, had to be invented and made from things as they actually were in the city and in themselves. They were not the same people they once had been. Anyway, they could not afford to go back. They didn’t have the resources to do so—they had lost too many things during the war.

The Mayor of the city wanted to set a good example, so he rebuilt his house on some broken walls that were still strong. He was richer than most, so it stood alone near the center of the city.

Most people could not afford new materials for rebuilding, so they decided to use whatever materials they could find. At first they thought their constructions looked primitive, like accumulations of junk. But, after a time, they taught themselves to build well in a new way.

Some structures simply covered up damaged parts of the older buildings, keeping the weather out while rebuilding was carried on within.

Other structures, when they were complete, were placed so carefully within the damaged sections of the old buildings that they looked like they had always been there. This was reassuring to people who looked to their buildings for a sense of permanence and stability.

Before the war, all the buildings had been similar. After the war, those that had to be partially rebuilt were each different. People said this was so because each building had had been damaged in unique ways and its residents had unique stories to tell of what they had experienced.

Rebuilding was a slow process. First the gaping holes had to be covered and then the space between new and old carefully filled in.

The materials people found were carefully shaped or reshaped, and precisely fitted together to form new walls and openings in them. When it was finished, a wall did not look like something old or haphazard, but brand new. It took a lot of hand labor, unlike before the war, when machines had done most of the hard work.

Inside the rebuilt structures were new and at first unfamiliar spaces. People could not move their old furniture—if they could find it—into them. But very soon they found new ways to inhabit the unfamiliar spaces that some thought were even better than before.

Of course, some things remained almost the same as they had always been.”


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