Locals express sadness for Notre Dame

Say church should be restored
Thu, 04/18/2019 - 5:00pm

The fire that raged through the 850 year-old Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was a tragedy that touched people deeply all over the world.

The stunning event played out in real time. Live images posted on social media and broadcast on news outlets captured the dramatic images of the fire toppling the spire, even as hundreds of firefighters battled the blaze, and created a deeply emotional event that people across the globe experienced together, including on Block Island.

While the images showed the increasing damage to the magnificant structure as the fire raged, the media also, in the aftermath, revealed that the old landmark has stamina — the bulk of the building remains intact.

The church has already survived two world wars and the French Revolution.

The outpouring of support, both emotionally and financially, has been staggering, with hundreds of millions of dollars offered to rebuild Notre Dame.

The Block Island Times reached out to people on Block Island to hear their feelings of loss, their memories of visiting the church, and their feelings about what should be done next.

“I cried,” said Gail Ballard Hall. “I had chills. I was overwhelmed. I was there twice. It’s hard to put the right adjectives together to describe it.”

“I went there on my honeymoon,” said Barbara MacMullan. “It was just a magnificent building — with the stained-glass windows and the gargoyles.” She paused, and said, “It’s tragic. I’m very happy to hear that they’re going to rebuild it. They should replicate it.”

Carolyn Collins, who spoke to The Times while getting her shop, Lazy Fish, ready for the summer, was visibly distraught. “I am devastated. It’s apocalyptic. I was just there a month ago. It’s hard to process that all that beauty is gone. It survived so much, but maybe this was its time. Maybe it will lead to some unity for the Parisian people.”

Collins said that although the church will be rebuilt some day, “It will never be the same. There was something about” the original builders, and the materials they used 800 years ago. “But they will rebuild,” she said.

“I’ve been a couple of times,” said Millie McGinnes. “It’s astounding. I heard about it while listening to NPR. I was shocked. It’s sad, heartbreaking. It’s a historic landmark.”

“I’m very sad,” said Shirlyne Gobern. “It’s devastating.” She noted that, “It stood for 800 years before this. They should rebuild it as it was.”

“It’s such a tragedy,” said Les Slate, who noted that he “once visited the church. “It’s an iconic treasure of a building. It’s majestic. The interior height was awe-inspiring. It was a must-see if you were in Paris.”

“It was magnificent,” said Patrick Evans. “It means a lot to a lot of people.”  

“I was there twice, once when I was a kid, and then again in my thirties,” said Johno Sisto. “It was an absolutely beautiful building. I hope they can restore it. It’s not just a religious icon; it’s a historical social symbol of the world. Millions of people visit every year. I hope it can be restored to its glory.”

“Paul and I were there in 2001,” said Blake Filippi, recalling a trip he and his brother took to Paris. “What can you say? Seeing thousands of Parisians holding hands and singing hymns is what Notre Dame is all about; far more than its structural beauty.”

“It was a beautiful church,” said Gustavo Gonzalez. “I got very sad when I heard that it had burned.”

“It’s a shame. I think it’s an important piece of civilization that burned up,” said Gary Ryan. “It’s a part of all of us. It’s part of our history.”

First Warden Ken Lacoste said it “was such a sin that something so beautiful and old that has survived that long was partially destroyed in hours.”

Town Manager Ed Roberge said, “The recent fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral brings to light the delicate balance of fire safety and prevention in and amongst the historic fabric of our communities. While our hearts go out to Paris, France, they will rebuild and go on. Block Island remains diligent and recognizes the critical importance of protecting our most vulnerable historic elements through care and thoughtful insight.”