In Summary
  • Many were quietly singing an Ave Maria in Latin, including Stephane Seigneurie, 52, who said he has lived in Paris for the past 25 years.

  • "I come often, and go in even where there's no mass because it's an extraordinary place, entwined in the history of France," he said.

  • "Politically, intellectually and spiritually, it's a symbol of France."

PARIS,

Crowds of stunned Parisians and tourists -- some crying, others offering prayers -- watched in horror in central Paris on Monday night as firefighters struggled for hours to extinguish the flames engulfing the Notre-Dame Cathedral.

Flames ravaging the roof illuminated the outline of the monument's two square towers in a fiery glow, and were reflected in the waters of the Seine.

SINGING

Along the Pont au Change bridge, which connects the Ile de la Cite with the Right Bank, the atmosphere was one of a vigil as hundreds of people watched in hushed silence as smoke rose into the night sky.

Many were quietly singing an Ave Maria in Latin, including Stephane Seigneurie, 52, who said he has lived in Paris for the past 25 years.

"I come often, and go in even where there's no mass because it's an extraordinary place, entwined in the history of France," he said.

"Politically, intellectually and spiritually, it's a symbol of France."

Notre-Dame

Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. PHOTO | FOUAD MAGHRANE | AFP

When Seigneurie says that he's very sad, an elegant woman with dark bobbed hair who is crying whispers to him, "We have to pray."

Jeanne Duffy, 62, had travelled from New York to Paris with her twin daughters to see her nephew run the Paris marathon on Sunday.

The girls had wanted to climb the church's towers Monday evening but at the last minute the three decided to go to Disneyland Paris instead.

"We were heartbroken because as New Yorkers we've been through this," Duffy said, referring to the September 11, 2001 attacks which destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

Notre-Dame

A firefighter is seen dousing the facade of the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral as flames engulf the roof of the cathedral on April 15, 2019, in the French capital Paris. PHOTO | STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN | AFP

"In terms of heritage this is much worse. This is a world treasure. Everyone knows Notre-Dame," she said.

HISTORY

Gasps and cries of "Oh my god" erupted at 7:50 pm (1750 GMT) when the top portion of the church's spire came crashing down into an inferno that had spread to the entire roof.

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