Morristown Green at the Notre Dame fire: ‘Overwhelming shock and grief’

Notre Dame cathedral ablaze in Paris, April 15, 2019. Photo by Bill Lescohier
Notre Dame cathedral ablaze in Paris, April 15, 2019. Photo by Bill Lescohier
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Editor’s note: MorristownGreen.com contributor Bill Lescohier and his wife, Rosary, are in Paris and shared this account of Monday’s fire at the famous Notre Dame cathedral:

By Bill Lescohier

We are staying on the Ile Saint Louis, the island adjacent to Ile de la Cité where Notre Dame is located.

On Monday at 7:10 pm we left the apartment for dinner and headed toward Pont Marie (the bridge across the Seine, almost outside our door) to a restaurant on the right bank.

We saw a crowd on the bridge but assumed it was a tour group, so common in Paris. We turned to see what they were looking at and saw the billowing smoke.

At first we assumed it was a fire on the left bank. But suddenly we saw it climb the spire on the cathedral. Within a few minutes it was obvious the spire would fall because the flames were so intense.

Both of us felt overwhelming shock and grief. We did not want to witness the fall; we moved on.

During our stays in Paris in the last decade, we have always stayed on the island living in Notre Dame’s shadow. It was more than a monument; it became our neighborhood.

HAPPIER TIMES: Bill and Rosary Lescohier of Morristown in Paris with the magnificent--and intact--Notre Dame cathedral behind them. Photo courtesy of the Lescohiers.
HAPPIER TIMES: Bill and Rosary Lescohier of Morristown in Paris with the magnificent–and intact–Notre Dame cathedral behind them. Photo courtesy of the Lescohiers.

Compare it to seeing a devastating fire on the Morristown Green — unthinkable and a sick feeling in your stomach as you witness it.

The 'sapeurs pompiers' — the Parisian fire force -- heroes who saved Notre Dame, pictured after April 15, 2019, fire. Photo by Bill Lescohier.
The ‘sapeurs pompiers’ — the Parisian fire force — heroes who saved Notre Dame, pictured after April 15, 2019, fire. Photo by Bill Lescohier.

For many years, we have been fascinated by the sapeurs pompiers — the Parisian fire force. They have a large boat-fire station up near the Pont Neuf, east of the cathedral.

We always enjoyed watching them do their firefighting exercises on the Seine. We never dreamed that we’d actually see them in action, and so sorry we have. Today they are truly the heroes of Paris.

Once we realized the gravity, we almost immediately felt hope because French people are resilient and determined. They’ve come back from so much during their history.

So we’re confident that on another day, we’ll walk into Notre Dame again for a concert and light a candle for Ro’s parents.

AFTER THE FIRE: Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, April 16, 2019. Photo by Bill Lescohier
AFTER THE FIRE: Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, minus its famous spire, April 16, 2019. Photo by Bill Lescohier.

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