The day a fire engulfed Notre Dame cathedral and destroyed its iconic spire happened also to be the first day of qualifying in the 2019 PBA50 Tour season. Yet the question buzzing around the building — Maple Lanes Countryside in Clearwater, Fla., host of the PBA50 Johnny Petraglia BVL Open — had nothing to do with scores and standings and everything to do with the tragedy that had made the world stop and stare at the nearest news coverage: “Did you hear that Notre Dame Cathedral is on fire?”
Wherever you were the moment you heard about the conflagration, whatever you were doing, chances are you paused and pulled up the news that moment.
An Associated Press report described flakes of ash falling on tourists and Parisians who “looked on aghast from the streets below” as the glowing blaze threatened to demolish “one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world.”
While the main structure and the 850-year-old site’s treasured artifacts survived, the skepticism with which experts regarded French President Emmanuel Macron’s pledge to rebuild it within five years indicates the scope of damage the landmark suffered. An architect overseeing the restoration of the Gothic cathedral in Cologne, Germany, told NBC News it could take decades to fully repair Notre Dame.
In an era in which professional bowlers travel to every corner of the globe to compete, the devastation in Paris was felt deeply by those among the bowling community’s many well-traveled players who themselves had been to Notre Dame or planned to go someday.
PWBA Tournament Director Tennelle Milligan, who visited Colombia, Malaysia, Brazil, Spain, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Mexico, Canada and Panama during her six years as a member of Team USA but has not yet made it to Paris, said the landmark had been on her bucket list of places to see. "I actually sobbed a little when it happened. I am glad none of the artifacts were destroyed."
USBC Queens champion Missy Parkin, who visited Notre Dame Cathedral in 2008 while bowling that year's Brunswick Euro Challenge at Plaza Bowl in St. Maximin, France, said, "Seeing the Notre Dame Cathedral for the first time was an overwhelming experience. Being raised Catholic made it that much more meaningful.
"The historical relics, Medieval gothic architecture, the colossal pipe organ, amazing stained glass windows, and pure attention to detail in every little chapel and nook of the entire cathedral made for an unforgettable visit," added the Team USA veteran whose career has taken her to Guatemala, Ecuador, Dominican Republic and Colombia in addition to numerous countries throughout Asia, Europe and elsewhere.
“I first saw the fire on a Twitter feed, and I thought to myself, ‘Is this some kind of sick joke?’” Parkin said.
Four-time USBC Open Championships titlist Matt McNiel, who visited the site with girlfriend Jessica in 2017, said, "I am very thankful to have viewed the cathedral when I did, being able to experience such a testament to engineering and architecture. It's very sad that the structure endured so much damage that it can never be viewed in its original form again.
McNiel, who said he feared terrorism was the cause before the fire was reported to have resulted from ongoing construction work at the site, added that, “We decided to pay the extra 10 Euro to climb the tower and walk around the cathedral, which offered some spectacular views of Paris and of the ornate architecture that adorns the church … The masonry work and attention to detail is indescribable."
Parkin and McNiel were kind enough to share with BJI some photos of their respective visits to the site. Here is a sampling . . .