Southern Miss reacts to Notre-Dame fire


A Paris landmark will not look the same after a fire. The Notre-Dame du Paris caught on fire Monday, April 15. The blaze was put out after 14 hours of fighting the fire. It was believed the fire is related to the renovation work being done to the cathedral.

Notre-Dame sustained colossal damage to sections made of wood. The spire, which was built in the 19th century, collapsed into the cathedral. Two-thirds of the roof was destroyed as well as most of the framework.

Keltoum Rowland, a French instructor at Southern Miss, is also a French citizen. Rowland said Monday was an emotional day. “Notre-Dame, that is the heart of Paris, located on the Île de la Cité, where Paris originated,” Rowland said. “Notre-Dame is a masterpiece of gothic architecture and is the first thing I want to show students when they arrive in Paris.”

“I agree with the French ambassador,” Rowland said. “It is our national identity.”

Jessica Luzardo, a master of arts in the teaching of languages graduate student, said she thought the fire was a joke at first. Luzardo kept refreshing the homepage of Le Monde, a French news site but turned off the video after the tower fell and waited until the next day to hear what happened.   

Journalism professor and director of the British Studies Program David R. Davies, Ph.D, said he visited Notre-Dame as a French major in the 1970s and during the study abroad program. “At first, I was thinking it was the University of Notre Dame,” Davies said. “Obviously I was wrong, and I was shocked.”

“At first it appeared to be a small fire,” Davies said. “For a while, I think we all feared it would burn to the ground.” Davies said at the very least, they still have something to rebuild.

Davies said the fire is a tragedy for everyone in the world who cares about historical landmarks. Notre-Dame is in the middle of Paris, so it will be hard not to see it when students study abroad.

Molly Schraeder, a junior news-editorial major, saw Notre-Dame for the first time while in the Chateau program in spring of 2018. “When I first saw Notre-Dame, I was struck by how powerful it seemed,” Schraeder said. “Its size, its detail, its prominence in the landscape and all the history associated with it only makes it more impressive.”

Schraeder said Notre-Dame “seemed so impenetrable,” which is why she was shocked after receiving multiple news notifications alerting of the fire.

Lily Brady, a senior French and English double major, is the current president of L’Association Francaise at Southern Miss. Brady studied abroad in 2017 and in 2018 in France when she first saw Notre-Dame.

“Before going abroad, the monument I thought of most for France was the Eiffel Tower, and then I studied abroad and began to care more about what the French think is important to their history,” Brady said. “The Eiffel Tower was built only a little over 100 years ago, but Notre Dame is almost a thousand years old and was the start of Paris.”

Brady found out about the fire from a French class group chat. A person in the group chat shared a link that said Notre-Dame was on fire.

Brady’s friends started to send her photos as time went on. “I got more and more sad and heartbroken,” Brady said. “This fire is not the first in Notre-Dame’s history and gives me hope for the future, but the fact we are experiencing it and could watch the cathedral be enveloped in flame and the steeple fall in real time makes this experience so devastating.”

There is hope this fire will cause safety protocols to be reviewed when it comes to reconstruction or renovation of old landmarks. Luzardo said it may spark a wave of renovations to preserve landmarks that are significant to a culture.