Notre Dame Cathedral fire stirs memories in Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls, S.D. - The Notre Dame Cathedral in France caught on fire Monday and continued to burn for hours toppling its famous spire.

Photo: ZUMA / MGN

“It’s just the symbol of Paris,” University of Sioux Falls Assistant Art professor Ceca Cooper said. “So it’s just, it’s absolutely devastating.”

The roof structure, often referred to as the forest is lost and dated back to the 1220.

It was considered one of the oldest frameworks in the world.

Police say the fire is now under control, but not before causing substantial damage.

“I never thought that I was so attached to a building until I saw those photographs of it burning and my heart just sank,” Cooper said.

Cooper has been to the cathedral many times and has taken groups of students there as well.

The next group is set to travel to Paris next January.

“The heart of our tour in Paris is Notre Dame Cathedral, both inside, outside and from the same river boat that we usually do,” Cooper said. “It’s just such a huge part of Paris. It’s going to really be hard to visit Paris next January and have to look at the ruins of that.”

Those ruins contain centuries of history from the artwork inside to the structure itself.

“Things like that have sort of transcended the world's history,” Siouxland Heritage Museums director Bill Hoskins said. “I mean it survived World War 1 and World War 2. The beautiful stain glass window, you hope it survives and yet, boy looking at pictures of the roof on fire and the intensity and heat, I don’t know.”

“There’s something about that church that speaks,” Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls Monsignor Charles Mangan said. It speaks a presence. It speaks to a long tradition. It speaks to history.”

Seeing that history burning, reminds us that we cannot take for granted these priceless structures.

“Sometimes history is a lot more fragile than we think it is and you blink and something like that can be gone,” Hoskins said.

“We are united together in a community of believers and even though a terrible tragedy like this can strike, and does strike, it doesn’t mean that the church has stopped,” Mangan said. “Yes, we may lose a church and yes we may lose a beautiful structure, but the church goes on.”

Thankfully the main structure of the cathedral and that the two main towers are intact and have been saved.

Most of the artwork and religious relics in the cathedral were also saved.

Arson has also been ruled out for now.