Many UB students were shocked to hear about the fire that devastated the historic Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday.
The fire destroyed most of the Paris cathedral’s roof and middle spire after burning for over nine hours.
The fire began around 6 p.m. following an alleged accident involving construction work, according to CNN. The cathedral was undergoing a $6.8 million renovation project and scaffolding covered large portions of the roof. The fire began in the cathedral’s attic before spreading across the roof and spire. UB students from France said the cathedral is a symbol of Paris, since the Catholic church began its construction in 1163.
Kevin Jacques Christian Arbitre, a French international student, was back in France when he heard about the fire.
“I was really shocked and stunned. I immediately turned on the TV news to see what was going on and it was unrealistic. I mean this cathedral is a symbol of Paris and France so I felt kind of sad watching it,” Arbitre said. “I think … the Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris is a symbol beyond religion. Every French person is attached to it because it represents the history of our country and what it has been through during the last 800 years.”
It is still unclear how much of the cathedral is in need of repair. French authorities claim the two bell towers and main structure have been preserved, but parts of the cathedral could still be at risk of “collapses and falling debris.”
But the tragedy has affected more than just French students.
Lucy Desjardins, a junior global gender studies major, will be studying abroad in Paris with SUNY Oswego next fall.
“It took everyone’s breath away who felt they had a connection with the cathedral,” Desjardins said. “Parisians felt helpless, but I think this sort of tragedy has a way of bringing people together in reverence. Notre Dame has burned before and it will be rebuilt, but I think a sense of authenticity won’t be in parts of it anymore.”
The oak from the original roof –– which the fire destroyed –– dated back to the 13th century. Many of the statues, relics, the pipe organ, stained-glass windows and artwork were rescuedfrom the fire.
French President Emmanuel Macron addressed France Tuesday, calling for the cathedral's reconstruction within the next five years. Donations began pouring in from donors like The University of Notre Dame in Indiana, LVMH Group, Kering and L’Oreal. Donations have reached over $950 million as of Monday, according to The New York Times.
Students that study French within the department of romance languages and literature also foresee recovery for Paris.
Jaycee Miller, a political science and French major, recalled visiting the cathedral during visits to Paris.
“I remember thinking that I couldn't believe I was living during the day that Notre Dame burned, it just felt really improbable,” Miller said. “In the aftermath, knowing that they saved most of the artifacts, the relics and the art inside, and that most of the building is made of centuries-old stone, I think a lot of the reaction was overblown,” Miller said.
“Of course, it's a significant symbol of architecture, history and most importantly, of faith for so many, but this tragedy is not one from which Paris won't bounce back.”
Emily Reagan contributed to this story.
Samantha Vargas can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SamMarieVargas
Samantha Vargas is an English/ film studies double major with a minor in media study. She spends her free time finding shows around buffalo and hanging out with her cat.