EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Annie DiRienzo and her mother, who are vacationing in Paris, planned to wait until the end of their trip to go inside the Notre Dame Cathedral.
But because of a fire that tore through the historic building Monday, they won't get that experience.
DiRienzo, of East Providence, landed in Paris on Sunday.
"We're actually staying like 300 feet from Notre Dame," DiRienzo said of her hotel's location, which is down the road from the cathedral.
"It's really incredibly impressive, like, you're right on the Seine River, so you're crossing over these bridges and it's just this huge, massive, gorgeous monument," she added.
DiRienzo and her mother had just settled in for dinner Monday evening when she heard sirens wailing outside. That's when they noticed the smoke and flames from the window.
"It looked like it turned into a massive oven," she recalled. "When the spire actually fell, the whole crowd gasped."
The two stood with the large crowd watching the cathedral burn for about two hours before returning to their hotel room. But later on in the evening, singing in the streets drew them back outside.
"It was so beautiful," DiRienzo said. "People to the left of us were singing these beautiful French hymns. It was just a really, heart-wrenching, beautiful moment of humanity."
DiRienzo said the spirit of Paris is stronger than the sadness that lingers across the city.
"As devastating as it is, it left you with really good feelings about the people and the strength of the city," she said. "They're ready to move, you know, build from it and come up from the ashes of what happened."
DiRienzo said she and her mother plan to return to Paris once the cathedral is rebuilt so they can finally get a chance to see the interior.
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