Paris is Burning

April 16, 2019

Six days before Easter Sunday, in the thick of rush hour, flames crept over the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. In just hours, 856 years of history succumbed to ash.

Thousands of spectators gathered around the cathedral and watched in horror as the roof collapsed and the historic spire crumbled.

“After work I took the subway and I went to see it, it was between 7 and 8 PM. It was burning very badly, and it is still burning now at 11 PM. They just said the structure of Notre Dame is saved but the inside is totally burnt and ruined,” Parisian resident Charlotte Grassioulet said. “The tragic thing is that Notre Dame has never been destroyed. It’s so old, it’s one of the first monuments of Paris and it’s never been touched, even after the world wars and the crusades and all the suffering, everything. Today is a very historical day for Paris. People in the street were silent, we were all touched and sad…we were all just looking at Notre Dame and taking pictures and we were shocked.”

Priceless artifacts in the cathedral would usually be exposed to visitors on Good Friday and during the days leading up to Easter Sunday.

One of the most famous relics housed by the cathedral is the Crown of Thorns that Jesus Christ is believed to have worn on his way to crucifixion, which was was brought from Constantinople. The Crown of Thorns was saved from the fire.

Sixteen statues were taken from the spiral and saved, and the cathedral’s scaffold was believed to have helped in saving them as they were removed for restoration.

According to The Independent, the cathedral brought in about 13 million tourists a year and about 36,000 daily visitors, so the burning of Notre Dame will not only impact the French emotionally, but economically as well.

“After taking the metro from outside Paris to go to my apartment Rue Juliette Lamber in the 17th Arrondissement, I saw that there was chaos in the street and I heard people talk about all the smoke which was in the air… I took my two siblings with me and we went to the metro station called Cité in order to see the actual cathedral burning down. As we went out of the metro station, we saw that the streets were full of people and it was hard for us to see clearly because of all the smoke in the air. It was also very warm and the flames were huge. I have been going to the cathedral all my life, as it was an iconic place in Paris but was also important to me as I am Catholic,” Parisian resident Juliette Feau said. “It was also very surprising to see such a huge monument in flames… it was very dangerous as ash and bits of wood flew in the air.  [The smell] was super weird, it was like a huge bonfire, and very dusty. It was all around Paris… my friends who live outside of Paris could see huge clouds of smoke too. It was very silent at times and all we could hear were the cracks of the cathedral.”

French officials believe that fire may have started accidentally the attic. French president Emmanuel Macron visited the site and promised the country that the precious monument would be rebuilt, as the French people deserve nothing less.

As of 11:22 PM, French officials say one firefighter is severely injured, and according to CNN, no deaths have been reported.

Thousands of spectators clapped as flames were slowly snuffed out by massive cannons that continuously shot water at the cathedral. As of 2:44 AM, French officials have declared that the fire is under control.

The handling of the seemingly uncontrollable fire was criticized by not only spectators at the site, but also by U.S. President Donald Trump, who suggested in a tweet that perhaps the French should resort to aerial aid.

Notre Dame burned for so long because of its tricky location, as it is surrounded by water and in the middle of tight and narrow streets. Aerial help was impossible, according to the French Civil Rescue Force, because dropping tons of water on the delicate burning structure risked further destruction to the building.

“I’m dumbfounded,” Advanced Placement art history teacher Margarita Falagan said. “It’s a nightmare to watch, man against nature, nature always wins.”

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