HARTFORD -- Some Connecticut natives currently in Paris watched the Notre Dame Cathedral as it burned down.
Allyson Genovese, or “Ally G,” the 2016 Mrs. Connecticut and now a travel blogger, arrived in Paris just one day before the landmark cathedral burst into flames.
“This is a piece of history that most people put on their bucket lists to come and visit,” said Genovese.
Mere hours before Notre Dame started to burn, Genovese visited the historic building to take some photos.
“Literally, a couple of hours later, it just burned,” she said. “This evening when we were doing more sightseeing after dinner, we saw all the firetrucks and all the craziness going on.”
“It was like watching a science fiction movie,” said MaryEllen Fillo, a Hartford-based journalist. “You just couldn’t believe it was happening.”
Fillo was on the second leg of her Europe trip, checking into her hotel just a block away from Notre Dame as it burst into flames.
“It was like everybody stopped and ran toward Notre Dame,” she said. “It was unbelievable.”
Fillo said it was devastating to see people in such a state of shock.
“People were up on the rooftop taking pictures,” she said. “As the sun set and it became darker, you just saw all these silhouettes of people on top of roofs trying to get a better look at the sadness that was happening in their city.”
“I think I literally gasped,” said Leonard Blair, the Fifth Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Hartford.
“To see such a great- not just a monument, but house of God - go up in flames, is very, very troubling,” he said.
Blair was reminded of images he had seen of the Cathedral of St. Joseph, the mother church of the Archdiocese of Hartford, burning to the ground in 1956.
“I’ve seen pictures of that day and how devastating that was to the people of Hartford,” he said. “A cathedral is the religious heart of a diocese for the people.”
Now, Blair sends healing thoughts to Paris.
“I can only hope and pray that they will be able to salvage some of the things on the inside and that the French government will be able to rebuild it,” he said.