LAWTON, OK (TNN) - Lori and Stephen Medicinebird were less than a half mile from Notre Dame Cathedral on a river boat tour when they saw the Cathedral go up in flames.
“We saw, just billows of smoke. It just was crazy," said Stephen Medicinebird.
Early Monday night, Lori and Stephen Medicinebird were taking in their final night of France when their boat tour suddenly stopped and turned around due to the large structure fire.
“You could actually see the flames of the fire going over the steeple and the two bell towers,” said Stephen Medicinebird.
“We could feel hot ash coming down up on top of us, and we were close enough where you could literally feel the heat coming down on us," said Lori Medicinebird.
Immediately after the fire began, they said they were surprised people weren’t panicking. They just sat on their boat and watched people heading toward the cathedral to get a closer look.
“There was a lot of police action, but everyone seemed calm, and were just lining on the bridges leading towards the cathedral. It was just a sad, somber moment,” said Stephen Medicinebird.
Just three days ago, the Medicinebirds visited Notre Dame Cathedral to experience the special Holy Week ceremonies. They also climbed all 411 stairs to the top of the belltower.
“Knowing that it had reached that far, i’m wondering if people made it out, particularly those who would’ve had difficulty navigating the steep stairs just put shivers down my spine,” said Lori Medicinebird.
They both say seeing those Holy Week ceremonies was one of their favorite parts of the trip. They saw priests, nuns and tourists from all over the world visiting to see mass at Notre Dame.
“It made me wanna cry when i walked in because it’s been something on my list to just go and be there in that church. To know that now it’s literally engulfed in flames, it’s just a very sad day," said Lori Medicinebird.
Oklahomas Archbishop Rev. Paul Coakley called Notre Dame one of the most iconic buildings in the world, and offered Catholics a place of pilgrimmage, worship and devotion.
Father Brian Buettner, the pastor of Blessed Sacrament in Lawton says this event is obviously a tragedy, the fact that happened during Holy Week will give Catholics a chance to all mourn together.