French restaurateur living in Lincoln mourns the loss of Notre Dame

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - The fire is out at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, but the damages are far from gone.

Many of you shared your memories with the iconic structure. It's even affecting those in the capitol city.

There were no deaths reported and the cause of the fire is unknown, but that doesn't ease the burden of the devastation many are feeling.

"Felt like I was watching somebody of my family die,” said Laurent de Villiers.

Villiers lives in Lincoln, but was born in France.
He started the Normandy restaurant at 17th and Van Dorn, and used to call Paris home.

"Every time I go to Paris I go to Notre Dame. There is something so special there,” said Villiers.

He last visited Notre Dame in 2012.
He doesn't have any photos to share because as he says he was never tourist, and it was home.

"I was sobbing all day and nobody died. No life to mourn yet we are mourning like we lost thousands of lives,” said Villiers.

The father of thee says it was difficult breaking the news to his daughters.

"I said do you know about the Hunchback of Notre Dame well the church is burning, and that just made it more real to say it out loud. It’s very emotional,” said Villiers.

Parts of the roof including the spire have collapsed, but many artifacts were saved, and a photo of a cross still standing among the destruction has captured hearts around the world.

"Thank God it's still standing, but I’m angry. I think it's going to take years to recover. There is a spiritual aspect to this that I think matters a lot more than just the material,” said Villiers.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, but authorities have ruled out arson and terroristic threats. The church was undergoing construction at the time of the fire.
10/11 reached out to the Lincoln diocese for their thoughts on the fire. This was their response.

"We join the people of France in their sadness at the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral. Notre Dame is an icon of the faith of the people of France. Its burning has brought the people of Paris and many throughout the world to our knees in prayer. We pray that, in time, it may be restored to its original splendor," said Fr. Nicholas Kipper.