“I started crying,” Edgecomb’s Irene Marchenay said Tuesday morning of her reaction to images of Notre Dame Cathedral’s spire coming down in Monday’s fire.
“And I’m still crying now,” the Wiscasset Middle High School French teacher said in the phone interview. “It’s just, thinking of it being there, and it’s disappeared.”
Marchenay was born and raised in Paris. Notre Dame, with its 800-year-old oak, was one of the famous places her mother and grandmother would each take her as a child. She recalled sitting in front of the cathedral, eating cookies her grandmother had brought in her bag.
Notre Dame is significant to her for two other reasons, also, she said. She wrote her master’s degree thesis on “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” She read so many books on the cathedral’s construction and history, she said, “It was a journey. Even most French people don't know it in that much depth. I know the ins and outs of it.”
Third, when she taught at Bonnie Eagle High School and North Yarmouth Academy, she took students to Paris. Notre Dame, always a stop, impacted them.
“You would see them being all teenager-like and then, every single time, on this one stop, you would see this transformation. The (cathedral’s) solemnity and the beauty, (the students) would become in awe. I'm not talking about religiously, just that it was this extraordinary place.”
Since the fire broke out, she has been hearing from past students, and current ones at WMHS even though school is off this week, she said.
And she’s heard from her grown son and daughter David Hughes and Annalisa Carson. “They told me they understand,” she said. David, a U.S. Olympian in sailing, contacted her from Genoa, Italy where the world championships were set to start Tuesday. She is glad both got to see the cathedral with her years ago.
Marchenay hopes and expects it will be rebuilt. Her confidence is based in part on churches in Germany and elsewhere being rebuilt after World War II, she said. “I believe it can be done (and) be here for my grandchildren.”