Kentuckians with connections to Paris heartbroken by Notre Dame fire

Those with connections to Notre Dame share in France's mourning

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Monday’s devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral shocked people around the world.

Monday morning, Greg Sokoler and his family enjoyed visiting Notre Dame Cathedral. (Source: Greg Sokoler)
Monday morning, Greg Sokoler and his family enjoyed visiting Notre Dame Cathedral. (Source: Greg Sokoler)

More than 30,000 people visit the cathedral every day.

A family from Louisville is vacationing in Paris and visited Notre Dame on Monday morning.

“That’s the first thing we did when we got here -- we went straight over,” Greg Sokoler said. “It was very cool, we took a whole bunch of pictures.”

Sokoler took a picture of his wife Casey with their daughter Noa in front of the cathedral just hours before the blaze began.

“We’re lucky that we got to see it, but it’s also crazy thinking back now,” Sokoler said. “We’re digesting looking at all our pictures and it’s like -- wow.”

Later Monday, he captured a much different city. Many people in shock, gathering near the cathedral, and singing Ave Maria.

Bardstown native Michael Kirtley can see the skyline and the smoke outside the window of his apartment in the heart of Paris.

“It’s going to affect France and the people I know here tremendously,” Kirtley said. “There’s been an outpouring of sadness. I mean my wife and I have been in a state of shock all night long.”

He remembers the first time he visited Paris, calling his trip to Notre Dame a pilgrimage.

“When I first came to Paris when I was 19-years-old, Notre Dame was actually the first monument that I visited here,” Kirtley said. “The very first place that I went.”

Professor Hufbauer remembers visiting Notre Dame as a boy. (Source: Arabelle Hufbauer)
Professor Hufbauer remembers visiting Notre Dame as a boy. (Source: Arabelle Hufbauer)

University of Louisville professor Benjamin Hufbauer remembers his first visit too.

”I first went to Paris in 1979 with my grandmother who was an architect and she posed me right next to it and she explained to me it’s not just beautiful, it’s great engineering," Hufbauer said. “And that moment may be why I’m a professor of architectural history.”

The most beloved Gothic cathedral in the world, Notre Dame is known as a symbol of the country and its people.

”It’s amazing to think it survived World War I, World War II, the French Revolution, all that, and now who’d of ever thought we’d see Notre Dame being burned and in such a disastrous fire,” Hufbauer said. “What a shock."

Louisville’s Archbishop Joseph Kurtz has visited Notre Dame a number of times, most recently in 1990. He says he’s praying for the people of France, especially the firefighters who battled the fire. He stands by a statement released by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

“The horrific fire that is engulfing the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris is shocking and saddens us all, for this particular cathedral is not only a majestic Church, it is also a world treasure. Noble in architecture and art, it has long been a symbol of the transcendent human spirit as well as our longing for God. Our hearts go out to the Archbishop and the people of Paris, and we pray for all the people of France, entrusting all to the prayers and intercession of the Mother of God, especially the firefighters battling the fire. We are a people of hope and of the resurrection, and as devastating as this fire is, I know that the faith and love embodied by this magnificent Cathedral will grow stronger in the hearts of all Christians.”

Gregg Ferris, president of the Alliance Française of Louisville released the following statement:

“As the president of the Alliance Française of Louisville, I am shocked and saddened to see such a famous symbol of French culture damaged before our eyes. I have heard from friends both in Paris and Luxembourg expressing their sorrow and disbelief, emotions that members of our organization share. The Alliance Française will be itself donating to reconstruction efforts and we ask all Louisvillians to assist as well.”

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