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