For many area residents, the fire that destroyed most, but not all, of the Notre Dame Cathedral was simply news, something interesting that happened across the globe but didn’t impact their daily lives.
But for some, it was a deeply personal experience.
Manon Rondeau is the fianceé of Adam Hart, a native of this area, and is from France.
"For me, a deeply patriotic French woman who is such a lover of art and history, it's a complete shock," Rondeau said. "Notre Dame was part of those things we thought would never die, that were untouchable. It's linked to who we are as French and it feels like it was one of us who burnt. For me, it's a building I've always seen and been able to picture in my head instantly. It's also the scene of my favorite novel, ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame.’ This is a disaster and a tragedy."
Hart said he learned of the fire very shortly after reports started surfacing.
"I first saw the Notre Dame when I was on a high school trip, and I have been back many times. When my friend sent me the link to the news article saying the cathedral was on fire, it had only been burning for a few minutes. The steeple was lit up from inside with a magnificent and terrible red glow. I wondered how long it would burn, and how much would be left the next day. After an hour, all that was left of the roof was the steel scaffolding from the restoration work that had been in progress."
Rondeau said that when she first heard about the fire, "I was in disbelief, because such a thing is impossible in my head. Then I felt shock, especially at the violence of the images. I watched the tower, red and collapsing, after seeing it all my life, glorious in the sky, with its sculptures and stained glass. I cried because it feels like losing someone you love, and I have heard many French people say the same. My first reaction was to find a live video feed on a French news site, and I called my family to check if it was really true. They were already watching it on TV. My dad said that it was the 800-year-old wooden support structures in the roof that ignited like a powder keg.
"I have loved history for so long, and Notre Dame has spent so many hours in my imagination as a little girl. I still have many books about the cathedral, and I have looked up at it so many times in passing. As a former student in Paris, I understand the awful loss that it represents. This monument was 850 years old, and its loss is terrible for the world's heritage."
Hart said he hoped the tragedy would help unite France to "create and preserve."
"Commentators speculated that the fire was an accident from these restorations, and not an attack, which changed my perception of the tragedy. I thought about how the loss would bring people together to help. I thought about the destructive Yellow Jacket protests that have been taking place every Saturday for the last five months. These protests have been attracting anarchists from other countries who want only to break things and vandalize restaurants and statues. Now, to see a massive structure of indescribable beauty almost 1,000 years old ablaze, by accident, I hoped the image would bring people together to use their energy to create and preserve rather than destroy.
"There have been many comparisons to the Cathedral of Reims that burnt during the war in 1914 and now has been completely rebuilt. The French will rebuild Notre Dame, and future generations will be surprised to discover that there ever was a fire that burnt the roof and everything inside."