Paris's Notre-Dame Cathedral Was Saved from Total Devastation, According to Fire Officials

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

People around the world watched in horror on Monday, April 15 as the iconic Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France was consumed by flames. The fire, which French prosecutors say was likely started by accident, destroyed the building's roof, spire, and parts of the interior. But despite the intensity of the blaze, 400 firefighters were able to put it out and save the structure from total devastation, CNBC reports. Now, French President Emmanuel Macron is vowing to rebuild Notre-Dame, and donations are already flowing into the country.

The cathedral's facade and famous twin bell towers are still standing following Monday's fire. The interior also fared better than photographs of the inferno would suggest. Bernard Fonquernie, an architect who worked renovations of Notre-Dame in the 1980s and 1990s, told The New York Times that the stone vaulting inside the church acted as a firewall and protected parts of the church from damage. The famous stained glass South Rose window—which dates to 1260—remains intact, as does Notre-Dame's Great Organ, though it may be water damaged. The structure's roof, also known as "the forest" due to the amount of timber used to build it in the 13th century, suffered the worst of the fire.

Many of the priceless relics and artworks inside the church were also salvaged, including the crown of thorns the Catholic Church believes Jesus wore during his crucifixion. After Notre-Dame caught fire yesterday, firefighters, policemen, and municipal workers formed a human chain to remove treasures from the building as quickly as possible.

French firefighters work to extinguish the flames at Notre-Dame Cathedral. Here, the spire has already collapsed, but the main stone structure and bell towers were saved.
French firefighters work to extinguish the flames at Notre-Dame Cathedral. Here, the spire has already collapsed, but the main stone structure and bell towers were saved.
Veronique de Viguerie/Getty Images

Paris prosecutors are operating on the theory that the fire was started accidentally, and they've launched an investigation into the exact cause of the tragedy. In the meantime, President Macron tweeted yesterday that France will rebuild Notre-Dame over the coming years.

It's not clear what the cost of the damage is, but France is already receiving money to fund the restoration: More than 400 million euros (or $452 million) has been raised so far. Prolific donors include some of France's richest citizens: Kering CEO Francois-Henri Pinault pledged 100 million euros, and Bernard Arnault, the CEO of luxury group LVMH, pledged 200 million euros.

[h/t CNBC]

A Nellie Bly Memorial Is Being Planned for New York City’s Roosevelt Island

The infamous asylum on Blackwell's Island that Nellie Bly infiltrated in the late 1880s.
The infamous asylum on Blackwell's Island that Nellie Bly infiltrated in the late 1880s.
New York Public Library, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Nellie Bly, the 19th-century journalist renowned for her six-part exposé on Blackwell’s Island’s asylum in New York City—which she infiltrated by feigning insanity—will soon be honored with a memorial on the island itself, now called Roosevelt Island.

Her 1887 investigation, Smithsonian.com reports, uncovered cruel conditions for the female "lunatic" patients, like freezing baths, violence, and solitary confinement in rooms overrun with vermin. Its publication resulted in a series of improvements including increased funding, translator assistance for immigrants, termination of abusive staff, and more. It also facilitated a national discussion about the stigma of mental illness, especially for women.

All we know about the monument so far is that it’ll be some kind of statue—maybe a traditional sculpture, something more modern or even digital—and construction will take place between March and May of next year with a budget of about $500,000. The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) announced an open call for artists to submit their designs, and by August 2, it will choose five finalists who will then create conceptual proposals for the memorial.

The monument’s precise location is still up in the air, too. It could be around the Octagon, the only remaining portion of the asylum building that now forms the entrance to a luxury apartment complex on the northern half of the island, or in Lighthouse Park, a 3.78-acre space at the island’s northern tip.

Portrait of Nellie Bly
Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Until the mid-20th century, Roosevelt Island, located in the East River between Manhattan and Queens, was a rather undesirable place to visit. Along with the women’s asylum, it housed a prison, a charity hospital, a smallpox hospital, and a workhouse, The New York Times reports.

The city changed the name of the island (originally called Blackwell’s after the family who farmed there for generations) to Welfare Island in 1921. In 1935, it relocated the prison to Rikers Island (where it remains today). And in 1971, the city established a middle-income residential community on the island, renaming it Roosevelt Island, after Franklin Roosevelt.

Though Bly’s work in the island’s asylum may be her most famous, it was far from her only contribution to the worlds of journalism and industry. She also sailed around the world in 72 days, investigated baby trafficking, and ran her late husband’s manufacturing company. You can read more about her here.

“She’s one of our local heroes,” RIOC president Susan Rosenthal told The City about the choice to honor Bly. “The combination of who she was, the importance of investigative journalism and the fact that it happened here just made it perfect for the island.”

[h/t Smithsonian.com]

Goodwill Store Searching for Family of Navy Sailor Whose Purple Heart May Have Been Mistakenly Donated

Feverpitched, iStock / Getty Images Plus
Feverpitched, iStock / Getty Images Plus

When a Goodwill worker in Tucson, Arizona, unearthed a Purple Heart from a donation box in June, it didn’t exactly fit in with the box’s other household items. So Goodwill decided to try to track down the family of the soldier who earned it, CNN reports.

That soldier was Nick D’Amelio Jr., according to the inscription on the medal, which is also inscribed with “S2C, USN.” Military records confirm that he was a U.S. Navy (denoted by the "USN") seaman second class (“S2C”) who was reported missing in action during World War II, after Japanese surface forces gunned down the USS Little in the Solomon Islands on September 5, 1942.

D’Amelio was declared dead the following year, and is now memorialized in Walls of the Missing at The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Taguig City, Philippines. He was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously.

Judith Roman Bucasas, director of marketing of Goodwill Industries of Southern Arizona, told CNN that she thinks it was an accident that the Purple Heart was donated in the box of housewares. After all, it’s one of the most prestigious awards a member of the military can receive. George Washington himself created the award in 1782 (though he named it the Badge of Military Merit), and General Douglas MacArthur revived it on the bicentennial of Washington’s birthday in 1932, renaming it the Purple Heart.

Goodwill is collaborating with Purple Hearts Reunited, a nonprofit organization that reunites lost or stolen medals with veterans or their families, but since they haven’t had any luck finding D’Amelio’s relatives yet, they decided to call in reinforcements via social media. On Monday, Goodwill posted photos of the Purple Heart on the Goodwill Industries of Southern Arizona Facebook page, and asked people to please call 520-623-5174 extension 7039 with any information on D’Amelio or his family.

This isn’t the first time a Purple Heart has been discovered in an Arizona Goodwill—in 2016, a couple found the medal at the jewelry counter, and, with the help of the Facebook community, successfully reunited it with its recipient’s family. Hopefully, the story of Nick D’Amelio Jr.’s Purple Heart will have just as happy an ending.

[h/t CNN]

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