April 15, 2019 11:06 PM
(ABC 6 News) -- As flames enveloped the roof of the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris Monday afternoon, two former French language instructors at Riverland Community College recalled fond memories of their numerous trips to what they described as the heart of the city and the country.
Bonnie Rietz, who taught at Riverland for 12 years and led countless students on trips to Paris, got choked up at one point as she shared a message of hope to France.
"I actually went to Paris for the first time in 1968 when I was a student and that was my first time and the first time that I saw Notre Dame," she said.
Drawn in by the history, architecture and art of the cathedral, Rietz went back again and again, with her last trip being for her 69th birthday with her husband.
"I remember the last time I was there sitting on the west steps looking at the west facade, the sun was setting. Tim was off taking pictures and I just sat there and just looked at the beauty of the building and watched people go by, not knowing that I'd never see it again in the same form," she said.
When Rietz left Riverland, Sue Grove took over teaching French and leading the Paris tours. Her last visit to Notre Dame was in 2015.
"People just kind of roam in and there'd be the organ playing and someone, maybe not even a formal concert but just go in and sit and look at the beautiful windows that aren't anymore," Grove recalled. She added the building withstood two world wars and a revolution, but the damage caused by Monday's fire is unlike anything the cathedral has seen before.
While portions of the building may be salvageable, Rietz said Paris will likely never be quite the same.
"I think it's a building that I don't know if you could ever replace it. It took over 200 years to build," she said.
Updated: April 15, 2019 11:06 PM
Created: April 15, 2019 09:30 PM
Copyright 2019 - KAAL-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company