Connecticut Residents in France React to Notre Dame Fire

Connecticut residents who are currently in Paris are reacting to the devastating fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral. They say it's something they will never forget witnessing.

“What were the chances of being here when something so tragic happened? It was a moment you’ll never forget,” said Plainville resident Maryellen Fillo.

Her travel group was supposed to tour the Notre Dame Cathedral today.

“We literally checked in and somebody came in and said, ‘Notre Dame is on fire’ and we thought it was a joke. We’re staying less than a block from Notre Dame. And all of sudden, there were fire engines and police,” she said.

One of the world’s most beautiful treasures up in flames in front of her, “the soot and the ash. it felt like it was snowing on us.”

Just Thursday, Wethersfield travel consultant Melissa Albright toured the cathedral. It was the highlight of her family trip.

“When I told my 10-year-old when I picked her up from school, she couldn’t believe it. It’s very disappointing because it was so close and exhilarating for us just a few days ago.”

While she’s heartbroken by the news, she says it’s a reminder for all of us, “What does it tell us? Get up and go because with anything you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

In France, Fillo says in the wake of watching the fire, she’ll soak up ever site she sees with even more appreciation.

“I’m Catholic and it was Holy Week. What was God thinking? I mean you don’t question it. Maybe it was to draw people together. We take so much for granted perhaps this will make you take less for granted in our lives,” she said.

With many school vacations underway, some Connecticut students are currently seeing the sights in Europe.

Studying abroad is expected to be an immersive experience, but Quinnipiac University student Amy Thorpe didn’t expect to bear witness to something this historic.

Thorpe has been studying abroad in Paris since January.

“I immediately realized the gravity of the situation when I saw the smoke at the end of the street rising above the buildings,” she said.

The sophomore lives just blocks from the world-renowned cathedral. “It’s so beautiful. Such a beautiful cathedral. It’s just such a shame that this happened to it, but luckily France just has some amazing firefighters who were able to put out the fire and save a lot of the important relics that were in the church.”

French students from East Catholic High School in Manchester toured the cathedral Thursday.

We spoke to a group of juniors abroad over the phone.

“It was a lot bigger that I had imagined. I mean I’d seen pictures, but seeing it in person all of the details it was really magnificent,” said student Vanessa Polidoro.

Their teacher, Chantal Gagne, can’t believe her future students won’t see the same site, “It’s just unbelievable.”

“Especially now because of the tragedy that just happened, it’s even more of an opportunity to have seen it before it burnt down,” said student Alexandra Parsons.

While Thorpe’s study abroad program goes through May, she’s already looking forward to the cathedral’s future, what it looks like when it’s rebuilt. “There’s a really strong atmosphere of hope, I recognized and I thought that was really powerful in the face of such a horrific event like that.”

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