Madison-Plains students witness Notre Dame Cathedral fire

Photo courtesy of Owen Phillips, Madison-Plains student
This is the view a group of Madison-Plains High School students and their chaperones had of the fire that ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15. The students were on a school trip. They had toured the interior of Notre Dame less than an hour before the fire broke out.

(Posted April 18, 2019)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

A group of Madison-Plains students, advisors and chaperones witnessed firsthand the fire that caused extensive damage to the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, on April 15.

Eight students–freshmen, sophomores and juniors in Spanish and French classes at the high school–were on a weeklong school trip to Europe with two advisors and five adult chaperones. The trip included stops in London, Paris and Barcelona.

The day of the fire, the group had done a walking tour of central Paris, including a visit to Notre Dame during which they spent about 45 minutes walking around the interior of the centuries-old cathedral.

They left the cathedral around 5:45 p.m., just as the next mass was starting. They then ate dinner and, between 6 and 6:30 p.m. as they exited the restaurant, saw smoke, walked around the corner and saw the fire.

The day after the fire, the Madison Messenger made contact with Kyle Phillips, a 2010 Madison-Plains graduate serving as a chaperone on the trip. Her brother, Owen, was among the students on the trip. Phillips shared the Messenger’s questions with the other members of the group. The following responses are a combination of comments from students and adults in the group.

How close were you to the scene? What did you observe?

“We were close enough to feel the heat from the fire and smell the smoke. When the spire fell, we could hear the glass breaking. We were there for two to three hours, watching the fire. We could see fire fighters on booms around the sides of the church and on the bell tower. We were standing on the side of the church, so we could see the whole roofline as it caught fire.”

What safety measures did the authorities take to secure the area around the church?

“Police moved people out of the area and shut down metro (underground) stations all around the church. The bridges were also closed, and some are still closed today.”

What are your thoughts and reactions to witnessing the fire?

“We never thought we’d come to Europe and see all that happen. It was hard to take it all in. The scene was very emotional. And it was very quiet. Not many people were talking. It was weird to think we had just been in a building that was now on fire. Many of us were looking through pictures of things that no longer look the same.”

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