When the steeple fell

Cast of 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' react to the cathedral's devastating recent fire

Thomas Faye was in class when he heard the news.

His music history class had wound down as the professor slowly drew lecture to a close. The dwindling voice of the professor began to be overshadowed by the noise of students zipping their backpacks and slamming notebooks shut.

In this momentary pause, Faye thoughtlessly checked his phone. After quickly checking the time, he saw a notification that someone had sent him a link.

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Nothing about the day had felt unordinary, he said. That was before he saw the image that the link directed to. Faye watched in horror as the Notre Dame Cathedral burned, it’s twirling architecture engulfed in flames.

‘It can’t be,’ he thought. Faye yelled out to his teacher and showed classmates the video.

He saw history burning.

“My sanctuary,” he said.

Faye, junior musical ministry major, had developed this special connection with the cathedral after starring as Quasimodo in Waynesburg University’s performance of ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame.’

In preparation for this leading role, Faye spent weeks researching the rich history behind the story of Quasimodo and Notre Dame itself.

“I was able to work so closely with that time period [in which it was built],” Faye said. “It really was a historical place.”

Though Quasimodo was a fictional character and Faye has yet to see Notre Dame’s characteristic stained glass in person, his relentless preparation for the role created an emotional connection.

“Being Quasimodo, I made him come alive even though he isn’t real,” he said. “It made him feel so real.”

Faye starred alongside Ed DiOrio, sophomore sports broadcasting major, who portrayed the antagonist Claude Frollo.

DiOrio felt a similar connection to the structure after his role as the archdeacon, who worshipped the building in the musical.

“I treated it onstage as if it was the most sacred home to live in,” DiOrio said.

DiOrio felt even more emotion towards the devastation because he is of the Catholic faith and the cathedral has been a place of worship for the denomination for well over 600 years.

“When you treat a structure and with such high praise and see it burn to the ground,” he said. “There are no words to describe the feeling.”

He didn’t know how to react when he heard news of the fire.

“It’s almost like Niagra Falls running out of water,” DiOrio said. “It’s something you never thought you would see.”

Faye, DiOrio and millions of others were captivated by footage of the fire that ravaging the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, April 15. Flames erupted through the halls and destroyed the cathedral’s iconic spire and much of the roof before it was able to be tamed. The cause of the fire still remains unclear, but terrorism and arson are not suspected by investigators.

Faye said he felt heartbreak and shock as he watched as he saw fire envelop the religious building on social media.

“I thought I will never get to see it in my life,” he said.

Even though the roof and spire faced substantial damage, the fire was able to be contained before it destroyed more of the structure. At time of print, more than one billion dollars have been pledged to replace what was ruined.

“My hope is that it will all be rebuilt,” Faye said.