L’incendie de la cathédrale Notre-Dame (The burning of the Notre Dame cathedral)


Notre Dame de Paris before the catastrophic fire

Cecilia Allemagne, Staff Writer

Notre Dame de Paris was engulfed in flames at around 6:30 PM on Monday, April 15, 2019. While the exact cause of the fire is still unknown, the Paris prosecutors have ruled out arson, meaning the ancient monument was not purposefully set alight. As far as Parisians and the rest of the world know, the blaze was an accident.

Notre Dame is known as kilometer zero. This means that all distance measured in France refers to the distance that shop or home is located from the cathedral. The historic site was not only important for Catholics, it was the “epicenter” of France as President Emmanuel Macron put it. This is why on Monday, the religious were not the only ones in tears. The nation of France could only stand back and watch in horrified silence as a part of their culture, their history, and their daily lives burned.

In Johnston, there has been a long standing exchange program between the French program and a high school in Saint-Étienne, a city located in the central region of France. The catastrophe of the cathedral happened to occur while a few Johnston student’s and their families were hosting the students from France. These foreign exchange students were and are devastated by the events that occurred on Monday. Leo Dancert was just one of the students to come over from France. “It was really pretty, it was huge,” Dancert said. “What is happening now, it is, just awful.” He explained that he visited Notre Dame long ago, and that to be inside of the structure was ‘soufflant’, in English, staggering.

Hugo Monnatte also experienced much of the same grief as his home country did. “It would be maybe two years ago, I go to Notre Dame,” Monnatte explains. “And it was really beautiful, and, really, really huge.” He says that the cathedral was not just a monument. “It is really important for the french population. It was really sad, and I was really disappointed when I learned the cathedral was on fire.”

Pascal Perez, the exchange students’ instructor, says he has been to Notre Dame several times. “It was breathtaking,” Perez said. “It was just huge and the sight was…it was more than just a church. It was like something out of the ordinary, it was something magical. It was not just a church. It was part of our history and part of our ‘mythology’.”

When he found out about the fire, he was shocked into silence. “I was crushed,” Perez said. “Really, I, really, I literally wanted to cry. I couldn’t watch the videos.”  Perez said that he was fortunate to be here in the United States, because by the time he went to bed, the fire had already been put out. Had the students and Perez been in France, they would have stayed up all night.

This tragedy, like so many others, is a reminder that the worst things can happen to the best people, and the most beautiful of places. Like Notre Dame, the survivors of tragedy will always bear their scars, but shall do so with pride and newfound strength. Notre Dame is not just a church. It is the symbol of a people, a muse to artists both ancient and new, and above all, it is a survivor.