Fueled by a lattice of centuries-old timbers, the fire moved hungrily across Notre Dame’s rooftop toward the cathedral’s iconic spire. It belched yellow smoke, spitting out gritty particles of wood, stone, lead and iron and wanted more. Far below, their vision obscured by fumes and tears, firefighters, priests and municipal workers passed treasures hand-to-hand, hoping the speed of desperation could outrun the flames, Associated press reports.
They had 66 minutes.
The first alarm sounded at 6:20 p.m., silencing the priest and a few hundred worshippers and tourists inside.
“Everyone was immobilized by shock for maybe a minute,” said Johann Vexo, who was in the organ loft for Monday Mass. Shock, but no panic. The rear doors opened and within a few minutes, the cathedral was empty, he told Ouest-France newspaper.