PARIS – An evening mass at the Notre Dame Cathedral was interrupted by the ringing of fire alarms – a sound no one expected to erupt in the historic Paris church.
Organist Johann Vexo was playing during the evening mass at the cathedral when a massive fire broke out and he, along with the others inside, could not believe the alarm was real.
“In the middle of the mass, the fire alarm rang and so everybody had to get out of the church," Vexo said in an exclusive interview with KPRC2. "After the fire alarm started, we all believe (sic) it was just a mistake or a test or whatever. Nobody could believe that it was a full fire.”
Vexo said the building was quickly evacuated and he went home.
Minutes later he realized the gravity of the fire and headed back out where he, along with bystanders, could only watch as the church was engulfed in flames.
“It was very, very terrible news so I tried to come closer to the cathedral, I don’t live that far," Vexo said.
Many priceless items inside the church were lost and the structure suffered severe damage including the loss of the iconic spire and roof structure, which dates back to the 13th century.
Vexo however, can breathe a sigh of relief because according to Paris’ Deputy Mayor, Christophe Girard, Notre Dame’s historic organ remains intact.
“It was such a privilege to work there,” Vexo said. “For now, everyone will have to see what happens of course. If it’s possible to rebuild such a building, it will take years and years."
The iconic bell towers were also spared from the blaze.
The fire was extinguished in the overnight hours, and President Emmanuel Macron promised to rebuild the cathedral.