St. Pat’s students visited Notre Dame Cathedral weeks before devastating fire

'I kind of wish we had more time there to really look around, now that I’m realizing that it’s not there anymore'

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A group of St. Patrick High School students toured the Notre Dame Cathedral weeks before the iconic symbol of Paris burst into flames.

Photo courtesy of Loralea Wark. St. Patrick High School students, front row from left, Charlene Sobrepena, Hannah Courtoreille, Matthew Mukunya, Jordan Anderson, Jaslynn Menton, Makayla Lane and K’aili Catholique. Second row from left, Avery Hacala, Jenny Ma, Chinelle Besarra and Katie Hart. Third row from left, Kyle Rogers, Ava Applejohn, Katie Schauerte, Bernadette Garro, Alanna Bowerman, Emma Langer, Julia Leonardis, Quinn Critch and Adam Naugler. Fourth row from left, Evan Round, Aidan Allan, Raphalle Poulin and Victoria Hamm. Fifth row from left, Makayla Mackay, Paul Reid, Ally Engram, Alvin Kollannoor, Jasmine Balsillie, Rankin Stewart, Alexis McLeod, Holly Knutson, Ellie Taylor, Aisling Dunn, Hannah Patzer and Ethan Milkowski. Back row from left, Madison Mantla, Noah Rose, Tyshanyah Koyina, Landon Lavers, Niav Cudmore-Lynagh, Remiel Ortilano, Cameron Courtoreille, Marco Esteban and Jack Willoughby posed for a group shot in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral in March.

The 45 students and four chaperones were on a two-week field trip through Belgium, France and Germany in March. They were in there to visit First World War battlefields.

Among the sites they visited was the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, a few weeks before the historic structure was engulfed by a catastrophic fire that altered the city’s skyline and threatened an important symbol of Catholicism.

The fire burned for several hours on April 15, destroying the over 800-year-old cathedral’s iconic spire and roof before firefighters contained the blaze. The building’s two main towers along with several priceless relics were saved.

Last week, Grade 10 student Aisling Dunn told Yellowknifer that she is still trying to process what happened.

“I kind of wish we had more time there to really look around, now that I’m realizing that it’s not there anymore,” said Dunn.

“It was a beautiful church.”

Grade 12 student Matthew Mukunya echoed the sentiment.

“Like what just happened? We were literally just there,” he said. “They took 200 to 300 years to build it and now it’s just all up in flames.”

Grade 10 student Kyle Rogers almost waited until next year to take the trip, but he’s glad he went this year, he said.

“If I had waited I wouldn’t have seen it,” said Rogers. “We never would have imagined it would be destroyed or burned less than a month after we were there.”

Meaghan Richens/NNSL photo. From left: Aisling Dunn, Matthew Mukunya and Kyle Rogers. All three are students at St. Patrick High School and recently returned from a two-week trip to Europe.

The students were in Europe to trace the footsteps of the Great War and reflect on the 100 years since it ended. From Flanders Fields to Paris, they gained insight into this terrible time.

Dunn said the most important day for her was the visit to Vimy Ridge.

“That one was really powerful,” she said.

“It was kind of enlightening to put into perspective what (soldiers) would have seen. We were in class and we learned about the numbers of people who died in certain places or how many people fought there and then we actually got to go there.”

After the trip, Dunn said she felt, “grateful and proud to be Canadian,” and she recommends others visit the battlefields of Europe if they have the chance.

“It really puts into perspective and really lets you reflect on what they had to go through so that we can live the way we do today,” she said.

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