CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The world watched Notre Dame Cathedral sustain significant damage in a Monday fire and it felt like a personal loss for Charleston attorney Rusty Webb.
Webb has visited the iconic Paris cathedral a dozen times. He called the fire tragic.
“It’s tragic for Paris. It’s tragic for France. It’s tragic for the world because it’s such an icon,” Webb said.
Flames were shooting through the roof of the main cathedral as Webb and millions of others watched on television and the internet. He said Notre Dame’s location in the oldest part of Paris makes it difficult to reach with firefighting apparatus.
“You can’t get in or out of Notre Dame easily because everything is narrow. It was built for small people going in and out of corridors,” Webb said. “There are no streets around it and there’s nothing around it but the island and it’s so in the middle of the island that there’s no way the fire boats could reach that fire.”
The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston sends our heartfelt prayers to the people of Paris as fire ravages the Notre Dame Cathedral. As Catholics across the world begin the celebrations of Holy Week, we pray that those affected will be lifted by Christ during this time of tragedy.
— Diocese of Whg-Char (@DWC1850) April 15, 2019
There was no immediate word on what may have started the blaze. There was lots of scaffolding in the area of the fire as part of renovation efforts.
There’s also a group of Kanawha County high school students who are spending their spring break in Europe. They arrived in Paris Sunday and were scheduled to tour Notre Dame Cathedral Tuesday. Lead sponsor, Nitro High School history teacher Kizmet Chandler, told the Kanawha County school system everyone was okay.
“This is a 9 day elective Spring Break trip to London, Paris and Rome for Nitro/Capital students. There are 53 students (grades 10-12), 6 teachers and parents on trip. They arrived in Paris last night and were scheduled to tour Notre Dame tomorrow. They will leave Paris tomorrow for Rome,” Chandler wrote Monday afternoon.
Our Nitro HS & Capital HS students visiting Paris are safe. They were not near the fire today at Notre Dame. We wish them continued safe travels.https://t.co/L18EVng3hw
— Kanawha County (@KCBOE) April 15, 2019
Webb said Notre Dame Cathedral has been through a lot in its long history and has always bounced back.
“It’s been raided and it’s been used as a warehouse. It made it through Medieval times to today so I’m confident the French will rebuild it the best they can. It’s just devastating,” Webb said.
The cathedral draws some 12 million visitors a year. Webb said he and his family always try to get a hotel room where he can see Notre Dame.
“That’s an area that we love. It’s just absolutely beautiful and so tragic at the same time to see it burning,” Webb said.