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Houstonians share memories of Notre Dame Cathedral during visits to Paris

HOUSTON – Investigators are looking into what exactly caused the flames but as of right now, officials are treating it as an accident.

Meanwhile, Robert Zaretsky, a professor of modern European history at the University of Houston, tells Channel 2, the Notre Dame Cathedral has been through more than 800 years of history.

It transcends race and religion. People all over the world, including here in Houston, are devastated and heartbroken.

"It was surreal, just knowing that we were here and we sat outside and looked at it before we even went in," said Jasmine Harrison, a resident in Houston.

The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is visited by millions of people each year. Harrison said she took several pictures of the Notre Dame Cathedral when she visited with friends just last month.

"It's a feeling of reverence. It's darkened, you can see the candles burning. It's massive on the inside but incredibly quiet," Harrison said.

She said the experience is indescribable and that there is an energy inside that makes it all so special.
So when Harrison saw the cathedral on fire, she couldn't believe it. She said she was heartbroken.

"I just kept texting my friends ... devastated. It was just gutted," Harrison said.

Zaretsky been to the cathedral several times and says it's been through a lot in almost 900 years. He said it was defaced by terrorists in the 17th century, damaged during the French Revolution and it has burned before, but nothing like this.

Zaretsky said Notre Dame, which means "Our lady" in French, is both Gothic and Romanesque, an iconic hybrid.

"It is a monument that reflects this mixing and matching of races of peoples and values, more than any other structure. It is a monument, a building that comprehends both the grotesque in the gargoyles or Quasimodo and beauty, the Rose Window or La Esmeralda and that's what makes Notre Dame, Notre Dame," Zaretsky said.

Another piece that was saved was the Rose Window on the South Side of the cathedral.

More than $700 million have been donated to fix the cathedral.

The president of France is vowing to rebuild the cathedral within five years.