PARIS — Two Utahns were among the tens of thousands who watched as the iconic Notre Dame cathedral went up in flames.
The South Jordan couple is in Paris celebrating their twentieth wedding anniversary. Natalie and Russell Erskine were at the Museum of Modern Art when they first noticed flames shooting out from the cathedral.
“It was almost like everything just paused,” Natalie said. “It was just... it was quiet. You could hear a few people saying, ‘Is that the Notre Dame? Is that the cathedral?’ Just that realization sinking in.”
Those around them at the museum restaurant cried as the flames and smoke covered the iconic cathedral.
“The first part of the roof was on fire and then it slowly spread, and we watched the steeple go down,” Natalie said. “The whole room just moaned and there was a groaning sound.”
Natalie knew that was only the beginning of the collapse.
“We were all just waiting... how long can that hold up before it falls?” Natalie said.
Soon the entire roof gave in.
“To see each of the rafters that are curved caving in, it was very emotional,” Natalie said.
Only an hour before the fire first started, Natalie and her husband were trying to get inside the cathedral.
“But the line was really long so we thought we would just walk around and take some pictures instead,” Natalie said.
These photos are some of the very last ones taken before the flames claimed the cathedral.
“With the wait, we could have very well been inside so that was kind of an alarming thought,” Natalie said.
The Utah couple now shares the heartbreak with those from around the world.
“We had a family next to us at the restaurant who was planning to spend Easter Sunday there, instead they sat here and watched it go up in flames,” Natalie said.
The heartbreaking images now burned in their memory.
“I will never forget it. I will never forget this day,” Natalie said.