A Bethlehem Township couple visited the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris shortly before it caught fire Monday evening.

"We probably left five or 10 minutes before it started, honestly. We were just inside right before," Natalie Simmons said.

She and her husband, Nathan, were sightseeing with their daughter, Allyson, and her fiance, Nicolas Szerszen, who are to wed in France. Allyson Simmons was a pole vaulter and Szerszen a volleyball player, both for Ohio State. Natalie and Nathan Simmons/ left the cathedral to visit the Eiffel Tower, which is nearly 3 miles away.

That's when they noticed the smoke.

The Simmonses saw news about the fire online and could see the flames from an observation platform at the Eiffel Tower.

"Everyone around was very saddened, upset, crying, just heartbroken over it," Natalie Simmons said.

It had been the Simmonses' first visit to the cathedral, which was built between the 12th and 14th centuries and renowned for its Gothic architecture. Some sections were closed for renovations.

Natalie Simmons said local news reports stated artwork in the cathedral was saved. She wasn't sure the windows would remain.

"It had beautiful stained-glass windows," she said.

 

Reach Kelly Byer at 330-580-8323 or kelly.byer@cantonrep.com. On Twitter: @kbyerREP.