Lessons from Notre Dame

By Tessa Brubaker and Erin Dickson

Courtesy of Erin Dickson

Everyone assumes buildings never fall, landmarks stand the test of time and anything can be pushed off another day. For us, however, we learned that nothing lasts forever. As second semester juniors studying abroad at the Technological University of Dublin, we decided to make the most of our two-week Easter break and backpack around Europe. Today was the first day we were in Paris.

We started the day off as planned. We took the Réseau Express Régional train from our hostel to the Notre Dame Cathedral. It was our first stop, the very first thing we saw in Paris and it did not disappoint. We stood in the square and stared up at the beautiful architecture. It felt incredible to be in an iconic and historical city standing in front of an 856-year-old structure.

We walked around the church and contemplated whether it was worth it to pay to go inside. Admission into the tower and the crypt adds up to be less than 15 euros — almost $17 in U.S. currency. We noticed a long line stretching from the far end of the square up to the front doors.

We decided the line was too long, it was too expensive and the cathedral would be there tomorrow if we changed our mind.

Courtesy of AP News

We were sitting in a restaurant a couple hours later enjoying dinner half a mile away when we noticed the large clouds of green, gray smoke surging into the sky. At first we thought it was just crazy amounts of pollution and commented about the density of the smog. We quickly realized it was smoke. People stopped in the street to look up and take pictures of the billowing clouds as fire engines blared. Then we heard voices around us. It was Notre Dame.

That whole moment was surreal. As we tried to board our train near the cathedral, hundreds of thousands of people crowded around to watch as firefighters shoot water at the burgeoning flames. We soon realized the trains were down and our lack of knowing French made it difficult for us to figure out how to get to our hostel. In the end, we were able to walk about three blocks down to another station and make our way back.

If there is anything we learned from studying abroad, its that we need to make the most of each moment. Don’t assume you will be able to tomorrow. We regret not going inside the cathedral because, as it turns out, it will not be something we can visit another day.