Atlantans heartbroken after Notre Dame cathedral fire

Image 1 of 5

Atlantans with ties to France and the Catholic Church are heartbroken by a fire at the medieval cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, saying that "Paris would not be Paris" without the historic building.

The iconic building went up in flames Monday afternoon, the inferno only being extinguished after a 12-hour battle that claimed its spire and roof, but spared its bell towers.

The cathedral would have been preparing to display holy relics related to the death and resurrection of Jesus during Holy Week. 

Catherine Masseron, a leader of the Alliance Française d'Atlanta in Midtown, said the organization watched in pain as the flames tore through the architectural and religious structure.

"It's part of the city, part of the landscape. And you could not stop it – things falling down" Masseron said. "It was very emotional."

The Alliance Française d'Atlanta's Latif Oduola-Owoo said the fire was a disaster which "left us empty inside."

"All we can do is share our thoughts and prayers not only in Paris, but the rest of the world," Oduola-Owoo.

Catholics in Atlanta said they're sending their French brothers and sisters their prayers.

"At the beginning of Holy Week, the people of Paris have been asked to embrace a very heavy cross with the fire at their beloved cathedral," Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said. "Notre Dame is a treasure for the Catholic Church, for European history and culture, and for the world of art."

MORE: Notre Dame Cathedral fire: Cross remains, historic artwork and religious relics safe from damage

Thankfully the building's iconic twin bell towers remained visibly intact. Paris officials said the world famous 18th century organ that boasts 8,000 pipes also appeared to have survived, along with other treasures inside the cathedral, after a plan to safeguard heritage was quickly put into action.

At dawn, the twin 69-meter towers swarmed with building specialists and architects, looking tiny from the ground as they conducted analysis.

French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to rebuild the cathedral that he called "a part of us" and is appealing for help to do so.

More than 12 million people visit the cathedral each year, more than the Eiffel Tower.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.