(PARIS) — Though much of its roof is collapsed and interior decimated, the charred walls of the Notre Dame Cathedral remain standing over Paris’ Seine River.
That is a testament to the ‘”face-to-face” battle firefighters waged through the night to quash a massive blaze that ripped through the 13th Century basilica and prompted a global response to help rebuild, Valérie Pécresse, president of the Île-de-France region that encompasses Paris, said.
“When you see it from the outside, it’s still standing, and that is quite a miracle,” Pécresse said in an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America Tuesday morning.
Pécresse said firefighters fought the blaze through the night, saving the main sanctuary and the cathedral’s historic bell towers. The first photos released from inside showed the altar intact with a gold crucifix still hanging above it.
“We are terribly, tremendously grateful to the firemen of Paris, because they really saved the cathedral,” Pécresse told GMA host Robin Roberts.
Still, she said watching the inferno tear through the church was “like tearing our hearts apart because the cathedral is the heart of Paris.”
“It’s like when your home is burning and the whole people of France was crying and the cries had no color, no name, no race, no parties, but the whole of France was really upset,” Pécresse said.
But when asked what she wants the world to know about Notre Dame in the aftermath of the devastating fire, Pécresse said, “Tell them that the cathedral is still standing.”
The blaze broke out at 6:50 p.m. local time Monday and quickly spread along the roof of the cathedral, which was undergoing a $170 million renovation and was partially encased in scaffolding. It took firefighters hours to bring the fire under control.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
French President Emmanuel Macron expressed sadness at the sight of the 850-year-old building’s demise, but vowed to rebuild it at a news conference outside the cathedral.
Responding to Macron’s call for help, people from across France and the world began pledging money to help in the reconstruction.
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