On Monday, April 15, the burning of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris shocked the world, bringing down significant parts of the 850 year old church and clouding the sky above in smoke.
As chance would have it, eleven Auburn High School students happened to witness the major historical event from the River Seine nearby while on the semi-annual trip abroad to France.
Trip coordinator and French teacher at Auburn High, Karyn Ferdella, expressed her puzzlement upon seeing the initial flames, and the nervousness she and her students were feeling from the boat.
“We didn’t even really know what was on fire,” Ferdella recalls, “it was completely silent on the boat.”
There was considerable confusion among the onlookers as well, which even led to brief speculation over whether the fire had been set intentionally.
“I was wondering how the fire started and if it was a terror attack.” Senior, Matt Smith recollects. Information was scarce immediately following the event, which only added to the shock of the historic landmark’s defacement. Though they were unaware of all the details of the events taking place in front of them, it was clear that the day would become a sad, but memorable piece of history.
Junior, Maura Anish remarks that “For the rest of the night, it felt as though the city itself was mourning the loss of the cathedral.”
However, before the occurrence, the Auburn High School students, along with their chaperones, were among the last people to view the inside of the cathedral pre-fire.
“It was really an impressive, almost daunting, massive structure,” says Smith, who saw the cathedral for the first time on this trip. The students who went on this trip will be sure to remember the cathedral and its beauty, as they were able to witness the monument as it had been for so many years.
“It was a life changing experience,” Anish reflects. Even though her tour group wasn’t able to go inside the cathedral due to the long lines, simply seeing the building’s exterior was captivating and awe-inspiring.
Now, many steps are being made in order to repair and preserve this important symbol of France. The cathedral has had a history of reconstruction and fires, which helped to ease the sadness the students felt toward the initial loss of the important pieces of the church, and they were further alleviated upon hearing of the promises to rebuild.
“It’s always remarkable to see humanity come together and demonstrate goodness in the face of tragedy,” Anish remarks. Although the fire disheartened the tourists and citizens of Paris, it is also a reminder that the most important thing isn’t about the monument itself, but about the community which surrounds it.
In two years, when students of Auburn High School travel to France again, the cathedral won’t be quite the same as it was for this year’s students. However, the famous landmark will persist, and anyone who visits it, including Auburn’s students, will continue to marvel at the incredible structure for years to come.