GRAND FORKS — Gina Allen proudly displays the palms from a once in a lifetime service.
They will also serve as another reminder. "The weekend Notre Dame fell on fire," she said.
Allen captured pictures and video of some of the final moments in the centuries-old church before parts of it crumbled to ash.
"Walking up to the cathedral I was just kind of awestruck. It's more beautiful than you can imagine from videos and pictures," she said. "When I heard the organ play for the first time it just resonated, I could feel it in my bones. It was so powerful. The stones just housed the sound, and it just made you, it gives me chills just thinking about it. It was almost magical being there."
The most breathtaking part of the visit, she said, were the famed stained-glass windows.
"They were just so beautiful, and they let in a very glowing light. There were candles lit up throughout; you knew you were in the presence of something very important," Allen said.
She left London Monday morning.
When she landed at her layover in Toronto she learned of the devastating news.
"I wasn't expecting to get off the plane and see that," she said.
In the short layover, she couldn't find herself joining the rest of the world in watching firefighters try to save the iconic cathedral.
It wasn't until she got back home in Grand Forks that the devastation sunk in.
"It's surreal knowing I was standing where those piles of ash are," she said.
As Allen continues to follow the latest news regarding the fire and the future of the cathedral, she said it speaks to the Catholic faith during Lent.
"They say from dust you were created and from dust you shall return," she said.
That fits into the plan to rebuild, but it's expected to take nearly five years.