It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime.
“It’s always been a childhood dream to go to Paris,” said Faith Bartsch. “I fell in love with the idea of visiting after watching the Hunchback of Notre Dame and reading the Magic Tree House (series) Night of the New Magicians book as a little girl.”
The opportunity to visit Paris arose while Bartsch was visiting her boyfriend, Zane Maze, in London, England, where he is on a one-year teaching contract. With Paris a mere 2½ hours by train, the chance to visit was one the couple — both originally from Unity in west Saskatchewan — couldn’t pass up.
They were sitting outside, eating supper on a patio, when they realized something was wrong.
“I first noticed a cloud of smoke but thought nothing of it until I saw our waiter come outside to take a picture,” she said. “Almost instantly we got on our phones to check what was happening, assuming it was a house fire. My boyfriend turned his phone to me and I saw the name Notre Dame. To say we were shocked is an understatement.”
“As we passed by the restaurants and others in the street, it was plastered on screens everywhere,” she said. “Everybody was watching it. As we got closer, it felt surreal, almost like a dream. The atmosphere was heavy (and) an overwhelming feeling of sadness hit as we slowly worked through the growing crowd to make our way to the back of Notre Dame. We witnessed multiple people with tears streaming down their face.”
She said they were among thousands who gathered to watch as fire crews battled the fire. Despite the immensity of the crowd, she described the scene as “eerily quiet, just a low, soft hum and people moving to find another view.”
They found some space to watch and stayed for an hour or more, leaving only when they were fairly sure firefighters had gained control of the blaze.
“I’m devastated that something like this could happen to such a historic and well-loved cathedral,” she said. “It’s almost surreal as monuments like these seem almost indestructible, like they’re beyond the realm of tragedies.”
“I feel lucky that I was able to enjoy it before all of this happened,” she said.
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