On Monday, April 15, 2019, I took a photo with my mobile phone at exactly 18:46 GMT of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

Monday 18:46, April 15, 2019, Notre Dame Cathedral as seen from Rue Lagrange, Paris France

Only five minutes later, I first saw the smoke, then I witnessed a once in a lifetime disaster first hand. To this day I remember the smell of burning oak and metal, the gentle sobbing of the people crying in disbelief and the constant noise of the French sirens breaking through the eerie spectacle.

The “whoosh” and the crackling was so loud, the fire tornado so immense, that I felt the heat hot on my cheeks all the way up the river Seine, where I was standing near the bridge maybe 700 metres away. The brave firefighters on the balcony eventually had to give up and let the massive fire eat the lead roof. I knew there was nothing they could do at this point. It was over. A collective gasp went through the crowd when the spire came down.