NORFOLK — Among the last group of visitors to see the interior of Notre Dame Cathedral in France before Monday’s devastating fire were members of the Norwood-Norfolk Central School Spanish Club.
“They had toured the cathedral earlier in the day before the fire happened,” said Billijean Elliott, whose daughter, Alaina, was among those making the trip.
Before she saw the news of the fire on television, Ms. Elliott said Alaina, a junior, had messaged her. As the students were on a boat on the river Seine, they could see smoke pouring from the cathedral, Ms. Elliott said.
“I actually heard from her before the news of it even broke. She was quick on the draw letting me know. Her first message to me was, ‘I just want you to know we were at Notre Dame earlier today. It’s on fire, but we’re safe.’ She was on a boat when they saw the fire,” she said.
Ms. Elliott said the tour directors were unsure of what was happening when the fire broke out.
“It was a kind of crazy there for a little while,” she said. “It’s just so sad.”
The Spanish Club students are on a 10-day tour that is taking them to London and Paris before heading to Barcelona, Spain.
Norwood-Norfolk Central School Superintendent James Cruikshank said high school Principal Robin Fetter has been in touch with the group.
“We were very concerned, of course. We were concerned also for just the destruction of not just a national treasure, but a treasure for humankind. The level of history that is encompassed with Notre Dame is almost incomprehensible,” he said. “I’m glad my students were able to see the cathedral before its destruction.”
Thirty-four Potsdam Central School students are also in France for the 29th year of a French exchange program with Nogent-le-Rotrou, France. They are spending two weeks living with families and touring and were scheduled to tour the cathedral on Wednesday.
The cathedral is among the most famous landmarks in Paris, drawing about 13 million visitors a year. Construction began in 1163 and was completed in 1345.