For the First Crucial 23 Minutes, No One Detected a Fire in Notre Dame

In the critical early moments of the fire at Paris’ renowned Notre Dame cathedral, no one suspected that a devastating inferno was growing.

The first alarm went off at 6:20 p.m. during evening mass as a priest was reading from the Bible. Organist Johann Vexo said that people didn’t immediately react. He and some others started to leave the building but then came back.

Those who initially searched for a fire found nothing.

Vexo chatted with colleagues for another twenty minutes and said because he didn’t see fire or smoke he thought the alarm was a mistake.

But when a second alert went off at 6:43 p.m. officials discovered the fire on the cathedral’s roof. From there, it went on to consume most of Notre Dame’s wooden structure including its spire. The two bell towers and the facade survived.

Engineers spent Tuesday looking for structural weaknesses as dozens of investigators began the search for a cause. So far, they’ve ruled out arson and believe the restoration work underway may be to blame.

French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to rebuild an even more beautiful building and says a five-year plan is possible–although not everyone agrees.

Private donations from top French businesses are pouring in. Already, close to one billion dollars has been raised and French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe says the government will give ordinary citizens special tax cuts to encourage more donations.

The Spiritual Loss

On a spiritual level, the loss is immeasurable.

Ed Condon, the DC bureau chief for the Catholic News Agency, told CBN News it’s impossible to overstate the cathedral’s spiritual significance to Western civilization. And he acknowledged that the timing, during the beginning of Easter week, is stunning.

“I think big, dramatic moments … like this fire at Notre Dame, are a great time to give us pause as individuals, for the French as a nation, but also for us as a wider culture to really say, ‘Are we really taking seriously what we’re preparing for?'”

Dr. Corne Bekker, the dean of Regent University’s seminary said the moment could provide France with an opportunity to re-focus on its Christian heritage.

“We sometimes think of France as an ex-Christian country but I do not think we should make that mistake. They have deep Christian roots there and the story is not finished yet,” he said.