Local high school students, teachers visit Notre Dame Cathedral evening before fire

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A catastrophic fire broke out at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris as it was undergoing renovations on Monday.

The fire collapsed the cathedral's spire and spread to one of its landmark rectangular towers.

Many tourists looked back at their time at the cathedral when they heard the news. For Nitro and Capital High School students, that was less than 24 hours before the fire began.

Danielle Witt and Lauren Volk are seniors at Nitro High School. They are traveling with the group for an educational spring break vacation.

The group visited the cathedral Sunday night to take photos, and they had a tour scheduled for Tuesday.

"It was just breathtaking, honestly," Witt said.

"I just remember seeing it...and realizing how long it had been there and how much it withstood," Volk said.

The next day, the group heard about the fire from parents and news outlets. They saw the flames while out sightseeing. They reported seeing a small explosion when the spire fell.

"We could just see these billows of smoke rising up over it, you could see it from the top, it was very obvious the whole thing was on fire," Volk said.

Students said they witnessed many Parisians visit other churches to pray about the fire. "You could just tell how upset everyone was," Volk said.

While what they are seeing is incredibly saddening, students said it's been incredible to witness history unfold. Witt and Volk told WSAZ they are incredibly thankful for the opportunity to see the cathedral before it went up in flames.

"We still got to take pictures in front of it, and we're going to be some of the last people that got to do that," Witt said.

The students return from their trip on Friday. Their next stop is Rome.