Staley High students, soon bound for France, disappointed over Notre Dame fire

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The damage to Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral and its sacred relics won't be known for weeks.

That sense of loss is felt thousands of miles away in the Kansas City metro. Paris, and its famous cathedral, are a destination for world travelers. That includes a group of French language students from Staley High, some of whom will spend time living in Europe this summer.

"You can't replace the artwork that is in that building," Susan Downey, one of Staley High's French teachers, said Tuesday.

A little piece of their hearts died this week.

At Staley High School, Madam Downey`s French IV class has kept up with French headlines all semester, and Monday`s fire at Notre Dame Cathedral came as a major shock, especially to two students who will soon travel there.

"What a disaster," Downey said in French during her Tuesday lecture.

In any language, it's a terrible loss of a world landmark.

Footage from a French television newscast played on the classroom's screens on Tuesday. Downey, who has made five visits to Paris, including travel time with family, keeps a photo of Notre Dame Cathedral on her classroom wall.

"When you think of Paris, you think, 'Oh, Paris. It's a magic place.' I think that's what makes it more heartbreaking, seeing reality hit it," Downey said. "To see that historical monument being engulfed in flames. It's like this is the reality of life versus the magic of Paris."

A pair of Downey's French IV students, Hannah Pham and Madi Duce, both of whom are seniors, will spend stretches this summer living with French families as part of a student exchange program.

That program has been in existence for several years at Staley High School. It also involves young people from Europe spending three-week stays with family in the Kansas City metro.

"It is disappointing to know that I won't get to go inside and see what it was originally like," Duce said. "I know I'll get to go to the site, and that helps a little bit. I'll get to know it still stands, and it's still there."

"This is something we studied all the time. We always talked about the French monuments all the time. Notre Dame was one of the major ones we talked about. Knowing that I won't be able to go see this beautiful cathedral that many love is kind of disappointing," Pham told FOX4.

Most of the Cathedral`s works of art were rescued from the burning church, which is a saving grace for Downey and her students. However, they're quick to point out the Cathedral itself was priceless, and rebuilding it won't replace history.

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