Lewis County residents recall moment in Paris after Notre Dame fire started

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Former Lewis County Delegate, Peggy Donaldson Smith, and her granddaughter, Tori Riley, were in Paris on Monday, and made a long stop at the Notre Dame Cathedral.  They left just around seven o’clock in the evening and didn’t see anything out of the ordinary that stopped her from going back briefly to speak with a nun.

“I ran back in the cathedral to give her some money, and left probably about 7:02 or 7:03, and as Tori and I were walking away from Notre Dame, I took pictures of the building,” Smith said.

It was just minutes later, after they had gone into a Paris train station, that news of the cathedral fire began to spread, causing a reaction from the entire crowd in the terminal.  But it was a message from home that first tipped Riley off to what was going on outside.

“I immediately Googled it and it was all over Google, and there was a grip of panic in the train station as everyone started receiving the notification and many people were crying.  It was very odd,” said Riley.

Neither of the two left the station to go back and she what had happened, instead choosing to follow the developments by watching French media online.  But Smith said not knowing the cause of the fire had them worried for their safety.

“My first thought was “It’s holy week, this could be terrorism.”  We thought maybe there was an explosion.  How could it have happened so quickly?  Because we left the cathedral and went directly to this train station.  My thought was, ‘We’ve got to get out of here,'” said Smith.

Smith and Riley made their way to London, but followed the news about the fire as they traveled. Riley said the reality of their close call is still hard to imagine.

“It was very frightening to think that we were just in there, and logically with the flames that shot up, to get something that big, my grandmother and I had to have been in there when the fire started,” said Riley.

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