Dunkirk Resident Remembers Notre-Dame

Visitors and locals mill about in front of the portals that lead into the cathedral. Submitted photo

DUNKIRK — In August of 2018, Dunkirk resident Richard Titus paid a visit to France, and during his trip made an unplanned stop in Paris and bore witness to Notre-Dame Cathedral. Now, as the end of Holy Week draws to a close, he, like many others around the world, continue to mourn the tragedy that ravaged the 850-year-old Gothic church.

A history buff, Titus, along with George Burns III co-authored “No One Forgets,” a collection of individuals who died in various wars from Chautauqua County.

Though he loves history, his passion is WWII and he dreamed of always traveling to Europe and touring some of the locations sacred to veterans.

His trip started out like any other.

“My wife’s son got me a subscription to a WWII magazine a few years back,” Titus started in an interview with the OBSERVER. “In one of the issues there was a tour group called ‘Band of Brothers.’ I started telling people I was going to go on the tour, see Normandy and such. I paid for it and headed out.”

However, despite his enthusiasm, the trip turned out to be vastly different than many others who had ventured to Europe.

After arriving at the De Gaulle airport near Paris, a series of unforeseen circumstances led to him never connecting with his group. Titus instead, toured the city and its surrounding areas alone; however he did end up making it to Normandy, which he was quite happy to have done.

After five-days out there, his son-in-law arrived and it was at that time that the two of them decided to visit downtown Paris.

“We spent the day wandering around. We walked the Eiffel Tower and then I told him I wanted to see Notre-Dame, so we walked to it,” Titus said. When we arrived, I was in awe just standing outside. It was monstrous. I walked in and it was so quiet… a lot of people, but so, so quiet.”

Titus stated that it was a rather quiet day in regards of tourists and the pair spent an hour walking the entire building.

“We took a lot of pictures, it was something I always wanted to see,” he added. “There’s statues everywhere and the beautiful paintings… but it was quiet. That’s what I remember most about it, the silence, the reverence. It was fantastic.”

Throughout the visit, his son-in-law snapped several candid photos of Titus that now, looking back, with the tragedy that happened April 15, he was happy to have.

“When I saw it burning, I was in shock, it was so upsetting,” he commented tearfully. “I was a fire chief in Dunkirk, put out fires for 50 years and when I saw this one, they just couldn’t get it down or anything. I couldn’t believe the troubles they were having. All I could think was ‘if it gets to the front, if it ever gets to the front….’ They did a great job saving what they did.”

Despite not joining up with the tour, Titus will never forget his first trip to Europe.

“Had I gone to England or if I had met this guy, we would have never gotten to Paris,” he stated. “It was a blessing in disguise.”