The day after the ravaging fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Ruben Smith said the mood in the city seems hopeful.
“They’re talking of rebuilding it and all the artwork they saved. They also said damage was not as bad as originally thought, though it’s still a tragedy. People hold newspapers, look at their phones and pass by the remains of the Cathedral, this terrible thing happening in their own city,” he said.
Smith, a Northwestern State University student from Clayton, is visiting Paris during spring break of a study-abroad semester at the Université de Angers, France, about three hours from Paris. Prior to the fire, Smith visited the Gothic architectural masterpiece, one of the most famous landmarks in the world.
“When we went to the cathedral, we decided against going inside because the line was very long and there were a lot of people standing around, taking pictures. We decided to go around the back, trying to look past the construction on it, at the architecture and design of the spire and the roof from the back, near the garden in the cathedral. We looked at the beauty, not knowing that later that same day, there would be a fire to destroy it.”
Smith had just visited the Louvre when a friend received a text message about the fire. He watched the fall of the cathedral’s spire on his cell phone. Later at a restaurant, he described the other patrons watching television in silence and great sadness.
“We regretted not going inside, but it was still as beautiful from the outside. I remember the bell towers from the Disney film ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame,’ and when seeing the fire I couldn’t help but think back to the movie. It was so surreal and unbelievable when it happened. And to look at the remains in pictures is so devastating, but hopefully they rebuild the holy relic of Paris.”
Smith is a 2017 graduate of Sicily Island High School studying literature and French at Angers. At NSU, his major is English with concentrations in film studies and creative writing and a minor in French. He and friends visited Versailles Tuesday and planned to return to Angers Wednesday.
“There were so many people there [Versailles] today. We waited in line for three hours just to get into rooms full of people. It’s getting to be tourist season and the tourists will only get to see the outside of the Cathedral, which is very sad.”
As a writer who absorbs the world around him, Smith said the day would be one he will always remember.
“This is the first time I’ve ever been near something as monumental as this, and it fills me with so much dread and sadness that something as horrible as this could happen to something so important to others. This will be a day I’ll always remember, as surreal as it was.”