Students' emotions mixed after seeing burned Cathedral

Six of the seven Cranberry High School students who recently visited Paris are seen near the burned remains of the Notre Dame Cathedral. They are, from left, Elizabeth Sisco, Rachel Bell, Kristen Hogue, Chelsea McKissick, Reagan King and Cassidy Miller. The seventh student on the trip was Aly Carter. (Contributed photo)

Seven Cranberry High School students went on a school trip they will remember for a lifetime.

The students - Elizabeth Sisco, Rachel Bell, Kristen Hogue, Chelsea McKissick, Reagan King, Cassidy Miller and Aly Carter - along with English teacher Heather Motter traveled to Europe, where they also saw the burned remains of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

The trip - which lasted June 14 to 24 and included travel to Edinburgh, Scotland; York, Stratford Upon Avon and London, England - had been in the works for two years.

The original plan had been to tour Notre Dame, but on this trip the closest they could get was a riverboat cruise that passed by the cathedral.

"We'll see a historic sight, but unfortunately not the one we wanted to see," Motter said she told the girls after hearing about the fire in mid-April.

The girls said they were sad and shocked when they had learned the cathedral was burning.

"I found out from a text from my mom. I thought it was a fake news story or a joke. I was more crushed than I expected," Hogue said.

Bell said in French class they had been following the renovations at the cathedral earlier in the spring.

"I didn't expect it (the fire) to happen," Bell said.

The main entrance of Notre Dame was closed, as were the streets around it, due to fears of the cathedral being structurally unsound and the presence of lead paint, so the girls were only able to see it from a distance, Bell said.

Along the river, the students saw many shops selling trinkets and artists with paintings of what the cathedral used to look like.

"They care so much about it," Carter said. "It was sad but pretty to see. It was like a memorial."

Motter agreed "that is exactly what it was."

Though the shops were noisy, things were quiet when the group got down to the river.

"The French people down by the river were silent and somber," Bell said.

And, Carter said with sadness, "everyone loved it so much" as she recalled seeing Notre Dame silhouetted on the river.

Hogue said seeing all the damage the fire had caused made it seem less iconic and noticeable.

Bell said a view from the boat enabled the group to see scorch marks on the stone of the cathedral. From the front, the damage didn't seem that bad. However, once they turned a corner they could see the back of the building was much more damaged than the front.

"It made me uneasy; it was still beautiful. I didn't know how to feel about it," Hogue recalled.

"Being unable to get close and touch it made it seem so remote; so special like it was too important, too valuable to touch."