tv MSNBC Live With Ali Velshi MSNBC April 15, 2019 12:00pm-1:00pm PDT
cathedral in paris. chris jansing, i'd like to say hello to you in very different circumstances. but this has been a heartbreaking last hour and a half. anne thompson and i sat here and watched the spire collapse inside that cathedral. >> you can hear the gasps. this is one of the most iconic places anywhere in europe. i think as we watched night fall. if you look at any guide book of paris, they tell you to look at the eiffel tower at night and notre dame. and people walk along the seine. it's an awe-inspiring sight on any night. tonight, it's a gut punch. hello, i'm chris jansing in for ali vel chicagshi. the cathedral reporters said the whole frame is burning.
the entire interior wooden structure is likely to be destroyed. notre dame is not just the important place of worship, it's the seat of the archbishop in paris. it's the most visited place in paris because of its a architecture and invaluable works of arts. even as we speak first responders are trying to save from inside that building. the cathedral, you can ski, if you saw some of the early pictures, the skcaffolding unde renovation. part of that famous spire, as stephanie said, collapsed. >> oh, my god, the steeple just fell inside the church. >> oh, my god. >> oh. >> on the church, that people have seen with the big rose in the middle and two towers. there's a large steeple in the back and that is where the fire
seemed to have originated. >> joinings now is an eyewitness, gina natale near the cathedral right now. gina, are you in a state of shock? >> yes, i think everyone is a state of shock. we're just visiting my friend and i from chicago. we were within blocks of the cathedral just before it happened. it was like any other day. and then we started receiving -- we didn't actually see it, the smoke ourselves at first. then we started receiving text messages from friends back home. when we got back to our apartment, we could see the skyline filled with smoke. big plumes of dark gray smoke coming off the cathedral. so, quite devastating. >> are you still in the apartment now and what can you see? >> we are in the apartment now. there's no more smoke in the sky. so, we can't see very much. but right about 15 minutes after
it was set on fire, we saw just -- i mean, the plumes went from the cathedral all the way across the skyline. even over the eiffel tower which, if you're not familiar, that's quite far. on the other side of the city. so very high, dark gray. very big. and can you also see plumes when the spire fell, we could see new plumes forming and coming up. yeah, quite shocking. >> when you realized it was notre dame on fire, did you try to go near it? i just wondered what the reaction was on the street? >> we didn't see or speak to anyone. we have a view from a top floor so, we wanted to see it from above. that was our best vantage point. but we could hear a lot of sirens. we're in what is normally, the past few days we've been here, a
very quiet neighborhood. and just all we could hear were sirens starting and lots of them. >> have you had a chance to go inside notre dame this visit? >> i have to tell you. i'm so sad. we visited the outside of it yesterday. and we made a point to, you know, we're going to come back to us in a few days. we didn't have time yesterday to go inside. and, of course, we took for granted it would still be there. >> yeah. it's hard to describe people even you that didn't get to go inside. i was just mentioning moments ago. wherever you're walking around that part of the seine, whenever you're in that area, you are drawn to the cathedral. it's an awe-inspiring sight, is it not? >> yeah, it is. i mean, it's an iconic monument, two-fold, obviously, religion and architecture.
we feel so awful for the people of paris and the people of france. >> are you feeling now as though everything's okay? you said that the smoke has stopped. is there smoke in your building? how far away exactly are you? >> we're actually -- we're in the 17th, we're northwest of where the notre dame is. you know, we're safe. we're far enough away that we're safe. but, you know, it was a good hour of smoke coming from the building. because we got home just as -- just a few -- probably ten minutes after the fire started. so, we saw the smoke basically from when it started to when it dissipated. >> gina natale, thank you so much for your time. and appreciate that you had a chance to talk to us. we do have a team of reporters and experts to help us understand the enormous
significance of these moments. nbc news, arthur hummen is joining us, and sarah love has been spent a lot of time in paris. sarah, bring us up to date? >> hey, chris, the absolute latest is we now have eyewitnesses saying this massive fire has spread to one of notre dame's iconic towers. independently confirm this yet. but our bureau is across the story. this is devastating. we saw the spire collapse earlier. a french writer saying this is the destruction of invaluable heritage. we're horrified by what we see. we also do have the first bit of good news, chris. out of paris. we've learned that 16 religious statues were actually removed from the peak for the first time in a century because they were
being cleaned. therefore, they escaped the fire. the latest information that we have is that emergency responders are trying desperately to remove the artwork and relics out of notre dame to save it from the blaze and from the smoke. right now, we do not have any reports of deaths which is pretty incredible when you think about the scale of this blaze in an urban area. the paris prosecutor has opened an investigation. and a key focus of that investigation is likely to be this ongoing renovation that you mentioned. and the scaffolding that was outside the part of the exterior. right now, based on what we know, it does appear the fire is still burning about two hours after it began. that's the latest we have for you, chris. >> sarah, stay with us if you will, i want to go to liz love who many of you know for coverage outside of rome. liz, we know you've spent quite
a bit of time in notre dame. you're a historian. we just heard sarah talk about there are first responders going in trying to save what they can. explain to us, in terms of the artwork, what's at stake here? >> well, i think on this day, we're all sort of mourning together. one of the first things that comes to mind, this is one of the reasons that comes to our churches a mixture of human solving and everything single thing about that church is a work of art. already, the extraordinary design that was innovation for the first time. we have the first buttresses for example, in notre dame. the first time they could open up walls by supporting them on the outside, making that beautiful tendril effect that people love to see. as a matter of fact, you've been watching the smoke billow around those tendrils. on the interior of the church, despite revolutions, despite
being emptied up as a temple of region in the french refusvolut, that church has been everything from its choir where teams of france would sit with very elaborate 15th century stories of christ all around it. you have an exceptionally beautiful statue of louis xiii and his son offering up their crowns and glory. you have many statues of the blessed virgin. you have magnificent paintings, these paintings that the city of paris would give to the cathedral once a year. it really is an invaluable series of treasures that are contained in there. >> and so many history that happened as well there, as well, liz. henry vi was crowned there. and napoleon there, he ended up
crowning himself. but the amount of history in that building is extraordinary. >> this building was built until 1163. everything from its construction. the achievements from the construction. it started as one style. as they were building and the new style, they developed this brand new gothic style. you have incredible steps forward. and the historical. the church of the wedding of the kings of france. three churches in france that were used for royalty. one was for funerals. one for coronation, and it was notre dame that was used for the exceptional weddings. awe al you also have, as you said, the famous coronation of napoleon. the incredible parade with many, many beautiful paintings that
culminated of napoleon taking the crown out of the hands of the pope. but it's also seen destruction. it's a good thing to remember. while it's never seen the devastation that it's experiencing today, that church had statues beheaded and stained glass broken. it saw the church emptied. it saw the church shot through until the end of world war ii. and, yet, that church has always come back. it's always renewed itself. it's always revived. i believe this church this time, notre dame will eviev oncrevive again. >> stay with us, liz, the u.s. bishops here in washington has issued a statement. the horrific fire that is engulfing the cathedral of notre dame in paris is shocking. noble in architecture and art it has long been a symbol of the transcendent human spirit as well as the longing for god.
our hearts go out to the afternoon archbishop and people of paris. and firefighters battling the fire. we are people of hope and resurrection, as devastating as this fire is, i know that the faith and love embodied by this magnificent cathedral will grow stronger in the hearts of all christians. anne thompson joins us as well. the use the word "resurrection," easter is coming up. the most important holy day on the catholic calendar. there would be events there all week long. the mass on easter would be not something you think of when you think of church, a hot ticket. >> it would be standing room only, without a doubt, chris. this is certainly one of the biggest weeks of the year for notre dame cathedral. usually, they have 30,000 people a day go through there. or really busy weeks it could be
as high as 50,000. that gives you what kind of magnet it is. the usbbc statement called notre dame a world treasure and indeed it is. in fact, when you were reading that statement, we could see -- you know, they have those dinner boats that go up and down the seine. and going past notre dame is a very important part of that tour at night. and then to see it this way is just absolutely unbelievable. and especially during this, during holy week. i mean, think of what would have been there. holy thursday, re-enacting the last summer where the archbishop would wash the feet of 12 people to represent the apostles. the silence of good friday where we remember the crucifixion of jesus christ. and, of course, the joy of easter sunday. all of that is now gone. to say nothing of what this means not just to catholics but to christians and to the people of paris in general. it is as much a symbol of paris,
the cathedral of notre dame, as the eiffel tower. >> sarah, i was remembering that when i was in paris for quite a while, after the horrific attacks, one of the things people of maris told paris tol hoped this would not keep people away. whatever their political thoughts may be, however they thought about what was going on in france in general, the pride in the beauty of their city, of places like notre dame, that it has long been such a magnet for people. and the awe-inspiring nature of this, another horrific heartbreak for the city of paris. >> yes. and we know that 400 firefighters are on the scene, attempting to put out this blaze. this is one of paris' most iconic monuments. more people visit notre dame than the eiffel tower, for
example. it's many ways synonymous with the city. and to watch it burn over the last several hours is a real gut punch. not just for paris, but for anyone who loves art or history. this is devastating. and historic. there's going to be an investigation. we know that the paris prosecutor has opened an investigation. and is now on the scene of this burning cathedral. one of the focuses is likely to be the renovation work that was going on. this cathedral was undergoing a $6.8 million renovation at the time the fire broke out. there was scaffolding on the ex tou exterior. it's very likely that's where they'll start looking what caused this blaze. but first, they have to put it out. and based on the information we have right now, this fire is still burning and this is very much an active situation in paris right now. >> with me now the former director of fema and miami-dade fire chief david paulison who is an expert in fighting fires in
historic buildings. let me just ask you, first the immediate question which is the challenges that are facing firefighters right now. >> you know, i can't even imagine what's going through these firefighters' brains with this beautiful building, 1,000-year-old building took 300 years to build. the fact that they're tanked with sa tasked with what's going on in this building. i know they have great firefighters. and i also appreciate the fact as we just heard, they're also going in and taking out as many of those paintings and historic artifacts that they can get out of that building. i read on one of the blogs now they think the fire has moved into one of the towers. hopefully, that's not true and they can save the rest of that building. it's tough. you want to get the fire out but also you want to make sure, particularly in a structure like this, a holy structure like
this, where you have so much important artifacts in there that you get as many of those out as you possibly can. >> can you just also just talk about the dangers of fighting a fire like this? we saw in a statement from the u.s. conference of bishops that their prayers are with the men and women who are on the front lines who are fighting this fire. >> don't forget, parts of this building is 1,000 years old. so the danger of collapse is imminent. you know, so the commanders there have to make sure they do everything to get the fire out. but don't want to put it your firefighters in such harm's way when parts of this building comes down -- which it already has. we saw the spire come down the entire wooden frame of this building is collapsing. we need to make sure that part of the building has to be fought from the exterior. on the towers themselves, that will be a pretty good that they've got firefighters inside there trying to keep the fire out of the towers. >> let me ask you, finally, the
initial conversation and it's way too early to talk about what might have caused this fire. but we saw the enormous scaffolding there. we knew there was renovation going on. so that's a place where they will start. what will the early stages of this investigation look like when they're able to finally get this fire out? >> i'm sure that's exactly what they do. they're going to focus on the piece where the construction was. where all of the scaffolding was. that's where i would start. more than likely, if you had to bet on something right now, when a building is under construction, that's when it's most vulnerable. we've seen it here in florida, in high-rises where a welder set something on fire and unable to put it out and it spreads too quickly. they have to keep an open mind and not just focus on that one piece. it could have started somewhere else and spread in the construction area because of the amount of wood and construction debris around there. it's going to be tough. it's going to weeks, maybe months before they actually get
to the cause of this fire. >> mr. paulison, thank you so much. we appreciate you talking to us. also joining me on the phone is george weigel, nbc news analyst. george unfortunate to talk to you under the circumstances. this is the seat of the archbishop of paris. i wouldn't be surprised, nor would you, i would guess, if we heard something from the vatican, sometimes soon, some statement from the pope? >> well, i'm sure everyone around the world is devastated by this fire. which is -- seems to be destroying a large part of the building that in a sense belongs to the whole world. it's a catholic cathedral. it's a vast catechism textbook in stone and glass. many of the parts of the cathedrals, the windows, the
carvings were intends to be textbooks for a population where literacy was not high. but while it's a very catholic building, it's not an accident that it was the first image in that great television series "civilization" done on the bbc by kenneth clark some 50 years ago. when he began the series by saying i'm not sure i know what civilization is or how to define it, but he points to notre dame, and he says, i'm looking at it. so, in that sense, this is a wound in the whole fabric of the western world. >> liz love, also a good friend of george weigel, one of the things that always struck me about notre dame, as many of the great buildings of the world. up walk in, you look up and it is impossible not to be awe struck. just by the overwhelming beauty. >> that's part of this amazing
design. the church that was -- it was a brand-new landmark in what they could do and what people could do with architecture by lifting up those arches, you walked into this incredibly powerful stone portal. and you were brought into this incredible sweeping force. the way the columns were designed with these bundles that reach up and then spread across this seemingly stone ceiling. it's an amazing event. and then the filtering in of the colors through the stained glass windows, you look more carefully, you see, as you just heard george say this catechism in color that fills you. so it's meant to lift the spirit. it's meant to open the spirit. but i think one of the most remarkable things in thinking about the artifacts kept in that church, one of the most important relics in christiandom purchase by st. louis ix.
the crown of christ is still in that church. especially in holy week you have the faithful coming in to venerate the crown of thorns that circled jesus' head. when i first thought what is going to happen to this piece of catholic christian history that is one of the greatest treasures of that church. >> so many pieces of history, as we watch what is happening at notre dame cathedral. the medieval church in paris. with me now philippe and doris who are here visiting. just a few blocks from the cathedral. thank you so much for coming in. i can't majimagine as you're watching this important icon of paris going up in flames. what are your thoughts?
>> it's exactly like the statue of liberty right now is on fire. you cannot imagine that. it's everywhere from paris, can you see the cathedral. it's unbelievable. >> i'm devastated. it's a shock. we live in the neighborhood, we're catholic, and our daughter had a coming up there. we walked every day. so, it's our life. you know, it's a religious institution. but it's just a history of france, too. it's a strong symbol, you know. it's just unbelieve -- our heart is breaking. >> it's not only a catholic building. it's one of the most iconic -- the most iconic building in france and in paris.
notre dame, that's it. >> it's also a place i think of for all of the history that has happened there, when terrible things have happened in paris, there have been services there. it certainly has seen destruction, it's seen sadness. but on a day to day basis in the large square in front of the cathedral, there are street performers. people love to sit in the cafes nearby where they can look up. it's a joyous place in many ways, isn't it? >> of course, it is, it is very alive. >> yes. >> it is -- well, the heart of paris. well, just life. >> it's the meeting point of young people. >> yes. >> as you can see, it's everywhere from paris, that's the meeting point. so you can do everything. just in under from of the place. big place. it's not not only the catholic building. it's bigger than that. >> as someone for whom this is a part of your everyday life, you
live year thenear there, what i your, or i hate to say what was your favorite thing about notre dame? >> well, my favorite thing about notre dame -- >> our daughter was here. >> yes. >> most of the big egest groups came in notre dame. it's huge. it's huge. not only paris, not only french people. >> so, it's the place where is crowded, many people sitting, drinking, dancing. cafes to drink, it's very, very nice. and there is the sea not far. you know, boats, on the seine, and it's very -- i can't imagine how it is now. with the smoke.
>> when you see the picture, it's just incredible. >> we actually saw in one of the shots that we had, there was one of those boats. the famous boats that go down the seine. we saw, as can you just imagine as tourists looking up, seeing flames. have you had a chance to talk to any of your neighbors, anyone else, what are you hearing from people back in paris? >> we can't even imagine that. >> catastrophic. nobody can believe it. you know, it's impossible. it's just such a symbol of france, paris, you know. nobody can believe it. and the roof is just -- it's destroyed. you know, unbelievable. >> look at the people around the place. >> there were huge crowds of people that started to gather and they moved them off the
island and ash was raining down. people sitting in cafes, it was as if it was raining ash on them. describe the area, if you will around notre dame cathedral for people who have not been there. the neighbor around. >> it's just -- it's not used just as it's incredible a huge. just many, many buildings. it's flat. there is the big police station just in front. the very dense. there's many, many people who lived and work there. and the just one block from the cathedr cathedral. >> people live there, it's a very vital part of the scene? >> yes. >> as you said, i was mentioning earlier, that if you open any guide book to paris, they say see this at night when the
lights are up on the cathedral. it's always beautiful. it's one of the most beautiful views walking along the river. >> yeah. >> and seeing it. >> that's the statue of liberty. same thing. can you imagine that? >> it is hard to imagine. >> from everywhere in manhattan, you can seat statue of liberty. liberty. that's the same kind of building. >> notre dame at least a couple times has undergone major restoration. in 1985. in 1991, i don't know if you were living there then. there whereas a major restoration. obviously, a major restoration now. >> because they removed the develop apostles. >> the statues? >> yes. the 12. >> apostles. >> that's it. and that was the beginning of another big, big rebuild of the notre dame.
>> well, philippe and lauren spoiler, i'm so sorry for what your city is going through. what your spabd neighborhood is through. we appreciate it. sky news, our partner in europe is covering this as well. let's listen in a bit. >> the fact that we all gathered spontaneously shows us how this building is not just a building, at a whole part of our history that's we're losing today. we're hoping that the fire won't damage any more building. the towers seem to be fine. they've been drowned in water so they can cool down. but we truly hope that everything would be much better in a few hours. obviously, all of the parisians, all of the french people are supporting the firemen here so they can extinguish the fire. >> just tell us what went through your mind when you first saw what was happening here? >> i was quite shocked. i saw a tweet like the fire
happened. which can normally happen. but the whole wooden structure. the whole rooftop actually burned down. i thought, oh, my god, this is really happening. and when it was started being on fire and suddenly collapsed. and we all heard this awful sound. meaning that it was down. meant that. >> we thank you very much. conveying the emotion of hundreds of people here on the north bank of seine as they describe what's happening here. i think the emotion. people just crying out and gasping with shock. and as he was saying, trying to come to terms with what is still going on over there. the building is very much burning and whatever the efforts of the fire service, they still very much do not have it under control. >> thanks, domenic for the update. domenic michael live for us
there. you hear the sense of relief around the cathedral of notre dame after a large fire broke out. the spire could lancellapsed. we watched the blaze across the roof. and now in the darkness, you see the flames and smoke that is rising. this is a symbol of paris. it's a symbol of france. one of the most iconic buildings in europe. sarah herman has been covering this. what can you tell justice. >> we're 2 1/2 hours in. french president emmanuel macron has reached the scene. he went straight into the nearby police headquarters. he is treating this fire as a national emergency. and france's civil security agency is saying they're going to use all means skem for wat s water-dropping aircraft to tackle this blaze. we saw president trump suggesting that, quote, perhaps
flying water tankers could be used to extinguish this blaze. but the french civil defense agency is saying air drops could actually collapse the entire structure so they don't want to go there. but it is concerting, obviously, to the people standing on the streets but even the folks at home watching. it's been 2 1/2 hours and this fire is still burning. the spire is gone. the roof is gone. we're getting eyewitnesses' reports that the blaze has spread to one of the two iconic rectangular towers. now, we haven't been able to confirm that specific aspect but this is quite an active situation. quite remarkably, chris, we don't have any reports of fatalities. when you think of a blaze in this size in a big urban area, just the smoke it would produce. it's pretty incredible that so far no reported fatalities as of yet. we're going to continue to monitor the situation and bring you the latest as we get it.
i'll turn it back to you. >> thank you for that weapon still have elizabeth love and george weigel with us. liz, i'll go to you. i know you've taken in the art there. you are expert there. it occurred me as french fred macron said our lady of paris is in flames what that really means. what does it mean to you to see this as an art historian? >> you know, you read about things that have happened in the past, treasures that were destroyed. you read about them in our day and age, it doesn't seem real to you. something you that knew, that you grew up with. i looked at a postcard when i was a kid dreaming of going to europe. now, i go there. and i talk about it, i get to share it with people. and you never imagine that you'll live through that kind of loss. on the one hand, it's defers
sta devastating and painful. but the joy of being a historian is knowing that this church has seen an awful lot. it's been around for 800 years. and this church has seen revolutions. it's seen the real horrid, in 1831, victor hugo wrote "the hunchback of notre dame" in protest of it, because they neglected the church so it would be revived again. so, this church has seen a great deal. no never a devastating fire. but i believe and i understand that history shows us that this church will resurrect. >> and a place, george, where as liz was saying earlier, there is so much iconic pieces of christiandom, including the crown of florence. where many famous and less famous catholics are laid to rest, george. >> including a dear friend of
mine, cardinal lipfabbier. his mother died in the holocaust at auschwitz. he converted to catholicism in the second world war. one of john paul's was to make that background with the archbishop of paris. and it was he who made notre dame in the contemporary world the center of reflection and prayer for who might not normally find themselves in the church for purposes of worship. but there's something about the gothic, i think, that inspires even the most hardened of hard. so some sense of transcendence. the glass in particular in notre dame, as it's shot and the other
great french catholic cathedrals is simply ethereal. you just want to let the color wash over you. sooner or later, you begin to think maybe that beauty is revealing something about truth and something about goodness. it's not just pretty, it's revealing. when liz was talking a moment ago about damage to building, i was thinking that the great basilica of st. paul outside the walls burned down in the early 19th century. >> in rome. >> in rome. and was essentially rebuilt by the whole world. liz would know the detail. but major figures from all over the world contributed to the rebuilding of that basilica which was really a piece of the world's patronmoney. i hope when it comes to rebuilding notre dame, whether all of us might want to take some role in helping the church
of paris rebuild this extraordinary place of truth and goodness and beauty. >> liz, we were mentioning before that there are many times in the past where this cathedral had fallen into great disrepair. and in fact, at times, it seemed to be almost irredeemable. but they've had major restorations. major renovations. it's hard to even wrap your head around right now, so early into this, just a few hours after the extent of the damage that we're seeing. but you can rebuild. you can come together as a world community, as a church community, as a city. we've seen it in the past, have we not, liz, and rebuilt? >> yes, i've been thinking about the st. paul's outside the walls precedent ever since i looked at that fire, remembering that the fire started on the roof in st. paul's outside the walls. indeed, the church even though
it was a very dire moment in 1823 when it happened, the entire world did contribute even from the most surprising quarters in order to bring that church back. and certainly notre dame has seen more of its share of major restorations. as a matter of fact, a great deal including the spire that we watched fall in was the work of an exceptional architect who was hired in the 1860s to reconstruct, really to do a very, very curious restoration of the church including rebuilding of new sections one of which was the spire. so the church has already seen a brilliant architect come in and delicately manage the working of having to reconstruct a church that has been left with headless statues in the facade. and there's every reason to believe that they will emerge a world effort, a world willingness to help. and brilliant architects that will be able to allow notre dame to return to her glory.
>> philippe and laurent are with us, they are visiting new york but live not far from the notre dame cathedral in paris. do you, maybe with your heartbroken which i am sure it is. . and as you said it is. it's hard to get beyond what we're seeing right now which the flames are still going, but do you believe the city will come together, the world will come together and get behind this cathedral? >> like they did with the rebuilding of versailles, for example, many people give money to renovate versailles, many american people gave money to renovate. because as your reporter told before, it's just only a french building, it belongs to the humanity. that's -- it's like in your own life. it's history -- it's historic
building. to the world. not to the parisian and french people. >> and we mentioned it's by far the number one tourist destination in paris. twice as many as the eiffel tower. it closes at 6:45 p.m. local time. and the alarm went around 6:30. that would have been a time, typically, in my experience, correct me if i'm wrong, there are a lot of people at the end of the day who are trying to beat that deadline, trying to get in. there are often long lines waiting to get into the cathedral. as soon as that first alarm went off, it was evacuated. witnesses said that within moments they came out and were able to see bits of smoke that were rising e ing from the spirh will is 295 feet high and was the highest part of the
cathedral. then we saw that gray smoke turn black. and eventually, the picture that you're seeing on the right-hand side when orange flames came flying out of the spire. and then they quickly grew and went on with intensity. we saw french police rushing in. we heard a lot of blowing whistles. and we saw the evacuation as well of the island, for safety sake. many people, understandably who are there and who see this agency the heart. both the geographic, but also just the real heart of their city, breaking down in tears, understanding what was going on that there was a national treasure here. that there was something so iconic, with so much beauty inside it, that was being lost. and thousands of people standing then on the banks of the seine, and seeing this fire go through the wooden roof. and liz, maybe i'm getting beyond asking, asking beyond
expertise but i remember from the last time i was there that the entire interior, the main structure was built out of timber. that is it is wood. there's virtually an entire forest that forms the frame of the inside of this. if that's dating back to the 1200s, you can just imagine what would happen once that caught fire, liz. >> well, indeed, one of the nicknames for notre dame is the forest because it was 50 hectors originally that had to be cut down in order to construct the wooden framework underneath the dome that actually does support the roof. and actually does support the roof. a considerable amount of it would have been replaced and that then and fixed, particularly during the period of the restoration. because part of the problem with notre dame had to dwou to with
fact it was structurally unfound. yes, nonetheless, exactly what happened with st. paul outside the walls. an enormous amount of timber in the roof and that timber caught on fire. and it's a tremendous challenge to put out a forest of trees on the roof, especially because most of them are going to be several hundred years old. there's an interesting precedent in the france cathedral which is not far from paris hit by a bomb in world war ii. same situation, it went up in smoke which they had an added problem which the lead on top covering the top of the roof, melted and passed through the gargoyle damaging buildings around it. fortunately, notre dame is on an aisle, so it can't cause as much damage. also an interesting precedent in the fact that immediately upon
the damage to the church, we immediately had americans like the rockefeller family needily thinking about -- contributing to the rebuilding of the church. we already have a precedent how to rebuild it. and we already have a precedent of generosity worldwide of rebuilding a church. we have a statement from the commissioner of the fire department of new york. images of notre dame are an awful sight to behold. the thoughts of the fdny are with the members of the firefighters as they bravely battle this terrible fire in one of the world's most beautiful and historic houses of worship. and we just got a statement for a spokesman for the fire department in paris. he says the next hour and a half is crucial in order to see if the fire at notre dame can be contained. so, the next hour and a half, crucial as wes see th see that
flames are still raging on the notre dame cathedral in paris. president trump just spoke about it. ron mott, we both tweeted about it. as we mentioned a short time ago but he also had comments did he not, ron? >> reporter: he did, indeed. in fact, the president wrapped up a roundtable. it was to be about tax rcuts. and he was running a bit behind schedule. perhaps staying on air force one watching the rolling coverage of that in paris. here's a limb bit of how he started this conference this afternoon. take a listen. >> terrible, terrible fire. you probably saw, some of you have heard. some of you have not, because you've been here. but i will tell you, the fire that they're having at the notre dame cathedral is something that a few people have witnessed. when we left, we had a whole group of your great
representatives, and what we left the plane, it was burning at a level that you rarely see a fire burn. it's one of the great treasures of the world. the greatest artists in the world. probably if you think about it i would say it might be the greater than almost nil museum in the world. and it's burning very badly. looks like it's burning to the ground. so -- so, that puts a damper on what we're about to say, to be honest. because that is beyond countries. that's beyond anything. that's a part of our growing up. it's a part of our culture. it's a part of our lives. that's a truly great cathedral. i've been there and i've seen it and there's no cathedral. i think i can say there's probably no cathedral in the world like it. it's a terrible scene. they think it was caused by, at this moment, they don't know, but they think it was caused by
renovation. >> reporter: and so, there you have it. that's how the president opened this conference here today. there were a lot of supporters here. a lot of small business owners from not just minnesota but around the country telling the president how the tax cuts have helped them. and one company in particular says that they were able to now abolaskbout accelerating their plan. their thoughts are with the folks in paris, chris. >> ron mott, thank you. i want to go back to sarah harman watching this on the ground. even though we're watching the flames over the last 2 1/2 hours, there's still anelief. but to hear the spokesman for the fire department say just how critical this next hour and a half is really brings home
what's at stake with what the firefighters are doing right now. >> absolutely. and this is dangerous work, as you well know. the fire department saying the next hour and a half is crucial. chris, it's been almost three hours now, as we understand it, since this blaze broke out around 7:00 p.m. local time until paris. 400 firefighters working. and part of what they're doing is trying to bring out some of the priceless relics and treasures and artworks that were inside this cathedral. unfortunately, much of the building is already gone. the spire collapsed. we saw that on live television. we know that the french president emmanuel macron is on the scene. he's treating this as a national emergency. he arrived and went straight into a meeting with police. we are expecting an address from him this evening. french television suggesting that could be within the next half an hour. but we don't exactly know when. the country will be eager to
hear from him. this is such an iconic building and to watch it be demolished on live television over the course of an evening is incredibly heartbreaking and draumatic. not just for people of paris but people around the world. it means so much, not only to catholics but to anyone who cares about architecture and history. when it comes to fighting the blaze, france's civil security agency says they're going to use any means necessary skem for water-dropping aircraft. the reason is simple. they believe that dropping water from the air could actually damage the structure and then cause the entire thing to collapse. so, they have to be very careful. this is an urban area they're dealing with urban firefighting is a tricky beast, chris. >> without a doubt. especially as we heard from felipe and laurent, the
concentration of people and restaurants in that neighborhood. if we can ask you, we just heard that president macron will be speaking in the next half hour or so. what would you expect to hear him say? you like to hear your president say? >> we'd like him to say that everything will be done to rebuild. as soon as possible. the church. that everything will be done to put this fire out and to rebuild very quickly. >> yes. seeing your president having interesting stuff to say about the burning of notre dame, it's a real, huge history -- not just historical. but it's real drama. you have breaking news on this subject because it belongs to
everyone, as we say, and everyone in the world. it's not on the french program, it's just incredible. >> liz lev, there was early on in the program, a young student who was visiting and staying just a few blocks from the notre dame cathedral. and besides being heart broken by what she was seeing, she also said she was planning to go inside notre dame for the first time later on this week, now she realizes all the things she will not be able to see. what is being lost, the sense of loss to so many people who dream, as many millions of people do, dream of going to paris, dream of going to see the cathedral. dream of going inside the cathedral. i wanted to ask you a question that you are uniquely poised to answer, which is as these first responders, as these firefighters are literally risking their lives to go in and rescue, to take out, what they
can, to save these priceless works of art, many of them may have already been damaged, if nothing else, would have had smoke damage. and there will be, in addition to the building itself, what they have been able to take out of it, there will be another major restoration. what would that look like? >> that's very involved. it's going to first involve a long period of study. any expectation that tomorrow they'll have the scaffolding up as soon as the fire is over and start rebuilding, it's going to require a long study of the damage. but most importantly how, in 2019, do we adapt our building materials, our building ways, to a construction that's already been built once in 1100, once in 1300, and again in 1800. so it's going to be a complicated period of trying to figure out what to do. and then, interestingly, there
are a lot of things that are damaged that are not part of the original design. as a matter of fact, the spire, which is 19th century construction, what to do with that. how to reconstruct it? do we reconstruct it with something new. i think there will be interesting debates about what to do -- >> liz, i'm going to interrupt you with a sobering bit of news. the french interior ministry, an official from the french interior ministry now says firefighters may not be able to save the cathedral. >> what? >> this is from a ministry official. firefighters may not be able to save the notre dame cathedral. it's hard to even process that. even as we're watching it, it's hard to process. >> wow. to think just yesterday they
were celebrating palm sunday, a day of triumph, a day of joy. and today it's destruction and perhaps the death of the cathedral. >> this is your home. philippe and laurence and you gasped when i read that, and understandably so. it is impossible to image paris without this cathedral, is it not? >> exactly. >> yeah. >> can you even put into words what this means to the people in paris? what this means to you as citizens of paris? >> it's paris. that's it. you cannot -- it's huge. it's a huge building. you can -- as i told you, you can see it from every place of paris. the big tower.
i think it's one of the most elevated building in the center of paris. >> that's the heart of paris. >> the ministry of the interior says there are currently 400 firefighters working to try to save what they can of the notre dame cathedral. the paris prosecutor, as we have been saying, has opened an official investigation. they're looking at potentially the restoration work that was going on as a cause. the source of how this happened is way down on the list of priorities right now. right now the priority is for those 400 firefighters to do what they can, to save what they can of this iconic building. president macron, the prime minister edward philippe have arrived at the scene, the paris prosecutor is also at the scene.
as you can just imagine, social media has been very, very busy. pete buttigieg, who, of course, is a 2020 presidential candidate, tweeted. i still remember the beauty of an easter mass i attended at notre dame cathedral some 20 years ago. dreadful to see such destruction at one of the world's most wondrous places. that simple phrase, a wondrous place. the director for civil defense said dropping water from plane would bring about the collapse of the entire structure. we are standing beside the firefighters who are doing the maximum that we can. back with me on the phone, an eyewitness who is outside and who has been able to see this from the windows of the apartment where she is staying. night has obviously fallen since we last spoke.
what are you seeing and what are you feeling? >> so we're -- now we're actually in front of it. we're by the hotel deville and the right back of sen, facing south. we can see there's probably about a thousand people out here, by my best guesstimate. it's still burning. obviously it's not just embers. it's burning. and how we're feeling is there's a palpable sense of sadness and loss here. >> have you had an opportunity to talk to any of the people? have you talked to any parisiennes and gotten their sense of how they are able to cope with what they're seeing? >> we just got here so i haven't had a chance to talk to anybody directly. but i can tell you based on facial expressions, everyone is distraught and sad. we've seen some people crying. as i said, very thick palpable
sense of sadness and loss. >> notre dame cathedral which is an iconic symbol of paris, an iconic symbol of the beauty of paris, that is so much a part of the history of paris, obviously is now in a fight for its life with hundreds of firefighters trying to save what they can. we already witnessed, a few hours ago, a collapse of the delicate and stunning spire, and the paris skies, both in day and now in night, just lit up by a blaze instead of the lights that would normally be grazing this beautiful structure. we have just a couple of minutes left, literally, so i want to get final thoughts if i can from liz and george. liz, you first. >> it's devastating. it is devastating. but i keep coming to mark the memory, the pictures we have of
the day the saint cathedral burnt to the ground and today it is one of the pride and joys of rome. and you're looking at a church that's the beating heart of the city of paris. despite the fact it's going to be destroyed, it'll come back, i'm sure, and be as beautiful and new in a proper way to this era. >> george weigel, in our final seconds, your thoughts. >> i'm wondering, chris, if this might lead to a recovery in some sense of the christian roots in french and european civilization. everyone has been talking all day about what a symbol this is of an identity for people. and yet the roots of that are christian, this is a church, a place of worship. so if people feel the deep wound they're manifestly feeling,
let's see if one of the outcomes of this might not be a recovery of faith. >> my thanks to all of my guests in this holy week. the symbol of catholicism and so much more in paris on fire. brian williams picks up our coverage. brian? we so begin the breaking coverage that continues our live ongoing breaking coverage of the fire we have been covering in paris. not just any fire. the world has been deprived of one of the most beautiful architectural landmarks of all time. the cathedral of notre dame. a tremendous loss. in no particular order to catholics around the globe during holy week. to the people of the paris, to the people of france and to the fop peop people of this world. it's hard to believe how little