On April 15, students and faculty of Elmhurst College, like the rest of the world, watched in horror as smoke and flames engulfed Notre Dame, an 850-year-old Paris cathedral.
“It’s sad, you know. Like, a historical building being burned like that,” said EC student Jenna Pederson. “I’m Catholic, and so it hits you harder.”
According to CBS, the cause of the fire is unclear, but an investigation involving 50 people is underway. Officials do not suspect terrorism or arson.
For many who actually visited the cathedral, like Laila Dennis, an EC student who traveled to the famous site as part of a January term study abroad trip this year, the news of the fire was deeply personal.
“Notre Dame transcends race, religion, its culture. This is the place of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It has become a staple,” said Dennis. “Despite your background, you’ll feel the power.”
Director of the EC Honors Program, Mary Kay Mulvaney, who visited the church numerous times, agreed.
“Notre Dame is iconic,” said Mulvaney. “It’s overwhelming how it was built in the 12th Century with the basics of construction and dedication.”
The medieval Catholic church was first built in 1163 and serves multiple purposes as a house worship, a world heritage site, and a French national symbol—a structure that has stood through time during eras of imperialism, reformation, and the French Revolution.
“In Western history it’s a pivotal place and has always served as a place of solidarity and support; it gives compassion and justice,” explained EC chaplain Scott Matheney.
Over 290 GoFundMe fundraising pages have been created to raise money for the repairs of the church. As reported by ABC News, $1 billion have poured in from around the world, including the United States for the reconstruction efforts for Notre Dame.
Some students reported conflicted views over this.
“It took Flint five years [to get funding to fix their pipes],” said Obaidullah Kholwadia, president of the campus’ Muslim Student Association. “There are issues already here we need to deal with first.”
Still, the awe-inspiring and symbolic nature of Notre Dame has remained everyone.
“I have to admit, it is a beautiful building,” said Kholwadia. “It’s like a gothic building, gargoyles and jagged arches. The courtyard is beautiful.”