For a group of French students at Helena High School, the news Monday of the fire at the Notre Dame cathedral was especially shocking.
That’s because they were just there a week and a half ago, on an exchange trip with French teacher Susan Bartels.
“My student were fortunate to have the opportunity,” said Bartels. “They knew they were lucky to be there, but they didn’t realize it might be the last time, in 20 or 30 years, they’d be able to enjoy something like that.”
This year, more than a dozen students got to practice their language skills, make new French friends, and see beautiful sights like the Notre Dame.
Tuesday, they described it to MTN News as “magnificent.”
Some said it’s hard to understand just how amazing the stained glass and the architecture are, until you’ve seen the church in person.
“It’s very tragic that something like this has happened,” said senior Jamie MacDonald. “‘Cause this place is so beautiful, it kind of has a sense of magic to it.”
MacDonald and sophomore Kira May even walked 387 steps all the way to the top of the Notre Dame, where they could see out over Paris.
“It was definitely tiring, but it was also really exciting,” said May. “To kind of feel like people who worked on the bells, and stuff like that, would feel like.”
Bartels has been to Notre Dame many times, but she said it never gets old.
She has since spoken with many of her French friends since yesterday, to express how sorry she is about the fire. Bartels said she’s confident Paris will be able to rebuild quickly, with the help of donors.
All of the students who spoke with MTN said they believe everyone should see Notre Dame if they get the chance.