WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Thousands of people in Paris cried and sang outside the burning Notre Dame cathedral in Paris Monday.
A Delray Beach woman in Paris celebrating her sister’s 50th birthday noticed the smell and sight of smoke in the distance and was shocked to realize it was coming from the cathedral.
“It’s just heartbreaking,” said Lesley Nygaard. “The flames would just ebb and flow, get bigger and then smaller, and bigger and smaller and people everywhere just standing there aghast at the loss of history and art.”
Lesley shared videos of the tragic sight from Paris and in West Palm Beach, Celine Colston of Paris received similar images from her family and friends back home.
“Notre Dame on fire like this is unreal like this is insane. Everybody is very emotional. People were crying on the street, it was almost like a war scene,” said Celine Colston, owner of Celine Agency.
Celine runs a modeling agency a mile from the cathedral and is in town casting talent at G-Star School of the Arts.
“It’s very emotional. We love this church,” she said. “It’s going to take a while, if not decades to rebuild this monument and it’s going to cost a lot of money. I think it’s going to take international support.”
The almost 900-year-old cathedral is a staple of art and history in Paris, regardless of religion. Palm Beach Atlantic University's Global Development Program Director Dr. Craig Hanson just returned from a trip to Paris with a group of students three weeks ago and said he made sure they visited the cathedral.
“It’s the cathedral that was built to tell the world that Paris was a place of great importance. So much history has played out there. Napoleon coronated himself in that cathedral, there’s the monument to Joan of Arc in that cathedral which I fear is destroyed,” said Dr. Hanson.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced that he will launch an international fundraising campaign starting Tuesday to rebuild the cathedral.