Campus News

Students with connections to France react to Notre Dame tragedy

Around two-thirds of the church has been lost to the fire at the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, according to CBS News.

Image By: Courtesy of Wiki-Commons

As flames engulfed the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris today, UW students who have spent time studying in France reflected on the importance of the structure to both them and those around them.

The fire began at 6:50 p.m. local time Monday, according to ABC News and the Paris Fire Department. Parts of the over 800-year-old church, including its famed spire and roof structure known as “the forest,” were lost among the flames, according to French officials. The church was undergoing extensive renovations. 

Allison Garfield, a UW-Madison student currently studying abroad in Paris, witnessed the burning cathedral first-hand while riding public transit.

“It was surreal. The metro went above ground and I saw plumes of smoke,” Garfield said. “I couldn't see Notre Dame but I saw so much smoke. It's part of history and you're watching it disappear." 

For UW-Madison economics and French major Will Kerwin, the impact of the devastation on the French people was felt from across an ocean back in Madison.

“For France, nothing will keep them down,” Kerwin said. “The shooting at Charlie Hebdo didn’t, the shooting in Nice didn’t, and they’re a fighting people. But it cuts deep at their sheer identity, as Paris was literally built around Notre Dame and Île de Paris. It seems the main structure has been saved, but lots of history has been lost.”

Garfield said she saw people crying in the streets during and after the event. She noted the particular impact on local communities. 

"I'm not Catholic and not from France and it's devastating for me,” Garfield said. “I can't imagine what the Parisians are feeling like right now and the people who have grown up here and also people who worship there."

The fire comes just six days before Easter, a major Christian holiday. Authorities have not yet determined the cause of the fire, according to CBS news. 

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