While the roads surrounding the immediate area were still closed off to members of the public, people crowded at every possible vantage point to take photos and discuss the horrifying blaze, with the smell of burning still in the air.
The daylight revealed the extent of the damage, with shards of stained glass from priceless medieval windows, and a gaping hole above the choir area where the spire crashed down.
“I'm very sad. I live in this arrondissement and Notre-Dame is part of my every day life. The cathedral is a great symbol of Paris and I used to visit every year with my mother,” Julie told The Local.
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“I came down to watch it last night and I couldn't believe my eyes.”
The hundreds of Parisians and tourists gathered on the banks of the river Seine were stunned by the damage and the atmosphere was noticeably subdued.
“I am so sad. We will rebuild it but it will never be the same again – the wood will come from a different forest, the carpenter will be different,” Evelyne told The Local.
“It is a symbol of the history of my city and it was like a nightmare watching those images last night, watching the spire fall,” she added.
Two women were praying in front of the cathedral in the drizzling rain among the crowds of locals, tourists and journalists from all over the world.
“I'm devastated, even if I haven't been a Catholic for a long time,” 88-year-old Claire told AFP at the scene on Tuesday morning. “I was baptised here.”
Philippe Marsset, the vicar general of Notre-Dame, was among the first to enter the storied Gothic cathedral whose sculpted arches have been blackened by smoke and pews destroyed on Tuesday morning.
“It felt like I was looking at a bombing,” Marsset said of the church where he was ordained a priest 31 years ago.
“It was hell,” he said, describing the moment when the blaze was discovered on the soaring roof shortly after evening mass ended shortly at 7pm on Monday.
“All night long I saw men going past with tears in their eyes. I described it this way: It was total chaos, but we can't let it knock us down,” Marsset said.
“This church was built 850 years ago. It withstood the wars, it withstood the bombings, it resisted everything,” he said.
Yet not all was lost: the crucifix standing over the main altar was one of several objects which escaped destruction.
“It's not the Notre-Dame (Our Lady) of Catholics. It's Notre-Dame of France, Notre-Dame of the world,” he adds.
“The church is burning, and the entire world is crying.”
The horrific fire was finally declared extinguished at around 10am on Tuesday, over 15 hours after the fire first started in the attic of the famous cathedral.
“The whole fire has been extinguished. Now we're in the phase of investigating,” spokesman Gabriel Plus told reporters at around 10:00 am (0800 GMT), adding that the fire had spread “very quickly” through the wooden roof of the world renowned monument.
Briefing reporters in front of Notre-Dame in central Paris, Plus said firefighters had focused during the morning on the cathedral's two massive bell towers and making sure they had not been damaged.
“That is the case,” he said.
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