When the spire of Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral collapsed in flames, despairing gasps and cries broke out among the crowds of Parisians and tourists, who gathered and were praying for the ancient architecture that has stood in the French capital since 1260.
The devastating fire broke out at the French medieval building on Monday evening, culminating with the destruction of the spire and the world-renowned rose window. But the iconic front twin towers and the main structure were saved.
“The worst has been avoided,” said French President Emmanuel Macron while vowing to rebuild the cathedral. But for most of the Parisians and people around the globe, the heartbreaking moment of the tragedy will never be forgotten, and, even once restoration work begins, things will never be the same.
For Parisians, the city is disfigured
“Paris is disfigured. The city will never be like it was before,” Philippe, a communications worker in his mid-30s, was quoted by AFP in an interview. “I'm a Parisian, my father was a Parisian, my grandfather as well -- this was something we brought our sons to see,” he said. “I won't be showing this to my son.”
“Politically, intellectually and spiritually, it's a symbol of France,” Stephane Seigneurie, who has lived in Paris for the past 25 years, was quoted as saying.
“It's incredible. Our history is going up in smoke,” said another onlooker who arrived on the scene by bike.
In a video circulating online, the crowds gathered near the cathedral were singing “Ave Maria” to a melancholy melody, praying for the 850-year-old architecture.
While the consuming fire and the crowds prayers were spread through live streams and rolling news, people around the world took to social media to express their sadness over the tragedy.
Saddened hearts on social media
From world leaders, celebrities to ordinaries, expressions of regrets are pervasive on social media.
“Notre Dame [sic] is one of the world's great treasures,” former U.S. president Barack Obama tweeted. “It's in our nature to mourn when we see history lost – but it's also in our nature to rebuild for tomorrow, as strong as we can.”
The United Nations' cultural agency and Audrey Azoulay, secretary general of UNESCO both expressed their deep emotion for the damages of Notre-Dame, adding that UNESCO is closely “monitoring the situation and is standing by France's side to safeguard and restore this invaluable heritage.”
Most people outside France have recalled their fond memories of visiting the structure while expressing the regret of seeing it engulfed in fire.
“The monument's history, art, and iconic architecture is irreplaceable,” said a Twitter user, while saying that it is “devastating” to see the cathedral burning.
“I'll always remember my time spent at Notre Dame [sic]. It was the first place I visited in France and will always cherish that feeling of seeing something in person that I had only admired from my textbooks,” Twitter user Christine Nordman wrote on her Twitter account.
The loss is felt in China
In China, people have been shocked by the breaking news, and took to Twitter-resembled platform Sina Weibo, expressing their feelings.
The news has been spreading through such media outlets as WeChat Moment and Sina Weibo in early Tuesday morning. As of noon, 30 percent of the Top 50 hot topics on Weibo are related to the fire at Notre-Dame.
For the Chinese, either learning about the landmark through Victor Hugo's novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”, the Disney animated film from the 1990s, or paying a visit there in person, people were saddened by the big loss in the history, art, and culture of France and the humanity as a whole.
“It hurts me to see the gif (of the spire collapsing), as if what I have treasured for years have been destroyed completely. The historical legacies are no longer belonging solely to one single country or group. They are the cultural heritage owned by the civilization of the human beings, and its loss should be regretted by all,” a Weibo goer commented.
“I never considered to be a simple architecture. Since it has been there for too long time, it seems to be a senior person, who has been sitting there, witnessing every moment of the past 800 years,” a student said on Sina Weibo.
“Paris has gone through tonnes of things, and Notre-Dame Cathedral has been involved in many, like an old friend of the city, who has been there all the time.”
Firefighters confirmed that as of early Tuesday morning, the fire has been brought under control, and the artifacts and cultural relics it housed, including the crown of thorns believed to be worn by Jesus Christ at his crucifixion, were saved.
French President Macron has announced an international fundraising campaign to raise money for the repairs, and French billionaire François-Henri Pinault has pledged 100 million euros for the restoration.
Hope still exists, as is said by many, giving the famed structure a silver lining.