Jeff and Tommy Philips said the city of Paris is somber and the people are in mourning.
Spectators were standing in awe, watching their cathedral burn. Some people even stood on sidewalks with tears rolling down their faces watching the fire burn for hours on end.
The brothers took a picture of the cathedral with their friend, Joe Hurley, just before it began burning. They were likely among the last tour groups to be in the cathedral and took some of the last snapshots in history.
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After leaving the cathedral, the men had dinner in the city and while walking back to their hotel, they noticed something was terribly wrong.
“I just happened to turn around and when I turned around, I saw huge smoke,” Tommy Philips said. “I saw a big fire. I said oh my gosh the cathedral is on fire. There were flames everywhere. There were a lot of police officers and a ton of fire trucks. They started to close down most of the roads that led to the cathedral.”
Barry Philips said his heart sank when he got a call from one of his son’s traveling abroad.
“I could hear all the emergency vehicles in the background and Tom was like ‘Dad, dad,’ I said, ‘Tom, what’s the matter?’ He said, ‘Dad, Notre Dame is on fire.'”
The Philips brothers said many people in the city were at a loss for words Monday.
“I feel for the French people – this is their church – this is their cathedral,” Tommy Philips added. “Everyone is crying. They are just completely in shock.”
Barry Philips said he’s grateful his sons were able to experience the history and unwavering beauty of Notre Dame as he did as a young man.
“It’s a beautiful, beautiful church,” Barry Philips added. “It’s one of the two or three most famous places in the city that’s just a symbol of Paris.”
Some Jonathan Law High School students are also in Paris right now on a school trip. They were actually at the Notre Dame Cathedral earlier on Monday as well.
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