New Yorkers mourn loss of '800-year-old beloved symbol'

April 15, 2019 11:19 PM

ALBANY, N.Y. (WHEC) -- New Yorkers joined with friends in France in shock at the fire that devastated the legendary Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. 

"We are so lucky that we got to see it today," exclaimed teacher Karen Bonventre. 

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Bonventre and 30 students from Shenendehowa High School, north of Albany, traveled to France in an exchange program. They took their lunch break outside Notre Dame Cathedral earlier in the day Saturday before the disaster struck.

"We were home with our host families when we found out about it," she recalled. "I actually got a text message."

Nazareth College history professor Tim Thibodeau declared the cathedral was more than a legendary church but an 800-year-old beloved symbol.

"This belongs to the world, as an art treasure," he said. "I think of Notre Dame and I think of the Eiffel Tower. Those are the two most instantly recognizable symbols of Paris and France… think of the history of this place, that Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned emperor of France in the front of this church."

Four hundred firefighters battled the fire for hours. Notre Dame's iconic spire collapsed in the flames and much of the roof was destroyed.

French President Emmanuel Macron swore to rebuild, a project Thibodeau cautioned would be monumental.

"It took about 100 years to build the building," he said. "It's a huge project that cost a fortune to build 800 years ago. Can't imagine what it would be now." 

In the meantime, the people of a stunned country and their friends from New York joined in mourning the loss.

"Here with my host family, it's so wrenching," sighed Bonventre, "for them to see this happen to the most popular site in all of Paris and they wanted to turn the TV off because they could not bear to see it burn." 


Charles Molineaux

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