DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - Stella Herzig says the news of the fire made her sick to her stomach because of the connection her family has to the cathedral - and she shared the memories her father left her while being a sniper on top of it during World War II.
“It's one of the places on earth that we feel a real connection to our dad,” said Herzig.
The fire at the Cathedral of Notre Dame is more than just a building for Herzig and her family.
“The Notre Dame Cathedral has always been important to our family because one of my dad's favorite war stories revolved around that building,” she added.
Her dad served in World War II, and was a sniper on one of the towers.
“His name is Joseph Rizzo,” she said. “And he was part of Company A, 146 Engineers, C Battalion of the U.S. Army.”
She says he couldn't believe the beauty.
“He said that it was an incredibly amazing and wondrous building and he could feel the history around it. He often would look up at the sky and wonder how did he get here? On the roof of Notre Dame,” she said. “He would pray that the Germans wouldn't destroy it because it was so beautiful.”
He passed away a few years back, but her family continues to honor him.
“Every member of our family who have gone to Paris, we head straight there and light a candle,” said Herzig. “My dad passed away in 2004 so we've been lighting a candle for him.”
She says he would be sick to hear about the fire.
“He would be very upset because he felt like he was fighting to keep those things going,” she said.
During the darkest of times, he found peace in the beautiful Cathedral of Notre Dame.
“It was three days and three nights of equal terror, cold, hunger, not knowing what would happen - but he claims it among the most memorable part of his World War II experience.”
She says he never had to shoot his gun while on top of the cathedral, and he was grateful for that. He was on top of it when Paris was liberated.