Roses have been laid near Notre-Dame-de Paris Cathedral a day after a fire devastated the cathedral in central Paris on April 16, 2019.

Losing Notre Dame Cathedral feels personal to people all over the world

Updated 4:29 PM ET, Tue April 16, 2019

(CNN)The world watched on Monday as a fire engulfed the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, causing the collapse of the cathedral's iconic spire and the destruction of its roof structure, which dated back to the 13th century.

Travelers from all over the world shared cherished memories of their visits to one of the most beloved religious structures in the world with CNN. Here are their stories.
Hilts said this was her mother's last trip.
Jill Hilts, 71, Southern California, treasures this photo of her mother, Phyllis, siting on a bench outside the cathedral in 2000. They visited Paris a few months before Phyllis was diagnosed with ALS.
"We did not know this would be her last trip," Hilts said. Her mom died in 2003.
Hilts said her mom's back was bothering her, so she waited on the bench while she went inside to light a candle.
"My memories of this beautiful sanctuary, especially the windows and statues, are embedded forever and intertwined with my love for her," Hilts said.
Catherine Furey visited as a college student.
Catherine Furey, 24, Pennsylvania, is a devout Catholic who's been to church almost every Sunday since she was a baby.
She said going to Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral as a college student in 2014 made her beliefs even stronger.
"The Mass was in French, and all of the tourists attending spoke different languages. We all followed along and replied in our own languages. It was extraordinary," Furey said.
Seeing the Crown of Thorns, which some believe was placed on the head of Jesus during the crucifixion, gave her the overwhelming feeling that "Wow, this is real."
"As soon as they took the cover off the crown, I wept and was filled with an immense feeling of love and gratitude for the sacrifice on the cross," she said. "I have never doubted my faith since that day."
Furey is now a military spouse and going to optometry school. She heard about the fire on her way to class. She said she kept checking for updates on Monday, even though she had a neuroanatomy final the next day.
"I cried when I saw the crown was safe," she said. "What a miracle they managed to save so much."
Scott Ferrell, Kansas City, Missouri, still remembers seeing Notre Dame for the first time as a child in the 1960s.
"Even at 9 years old, I so well understood the beauty of being in this very special place in Paris," he said.
Ferrell was a military dependent and said they studied French every day at the US Army school he attended. They also took a lot of field trips, including a boat trip down the Seine River.
"As we traveled along the river, I saw the Notre Dame Cathedral come into view to my right. I was caught by the beauty of the cathedral and just amazed at not only how large it was but how incredible the architecture was," he said. "I wish I had photos to share but all I have [are] memories tucked away in my memory."
Natalie Esparza poses for a photo in 2007.
Natalie Esparza, 35, Detroit, first visited in 2000 and was "absolutely spellbound."
"This cathedral had so much meaning for me as a person interested in art history and medieval history. Outside of its religious connotations, it stands for the progress of man. Its lasting historical value to what we can accomplish in our artistic and mathematical endeavors will not be matched."
The art major visited again in 2007 during her honeymoon.
"I remember the time we went on my honeymoon and as we were walking through the main doors we saw their choir singing, and to stand there and listen to a hymn that might have been sung centuries earlier was truly awe-inspiring. To this day I can still hear it and it sends goosebumps up my arms."
Maxime Lapeyre last visited in 2018.
Maxime Lapeyre, 33, Angers, France, regularly visited Paris growing up and remembers his trip in 1996 with his family as they explored the cathedral.
"That day we visited the inside of the cathedral, I remember being impressed by the size of the two towers, and by the people inside. Years later, as an adult I moved to Paris for work and spent six years there. It always stood out as one of the most beautiful monuments in Paris. And to me it always meant good memories of that day with my family."
Lapeyre now lives in New Zealand.
Rona Moody designed this stained glass in St Andrews Psalter Lane Church in the UK.