AUSTIN, TEXAS — Along with the rest of the world, an Austin family awoke Monday to news of a massive fire that engulfed the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. And like so many across the globe, the heartbreaking news resonated personally after having seen the historic structure in full glory while vacationing in Europe.
“We visited Paris in March 2015,” Jenny LaCoste Caputo, executive director of communications and community relations at Round Rock ISD, told Patch. “It was a dream trip — none of us had ever been to Europe before. We actually spent the week in London, but being of French ancestry (my family name is LaCoste) the idea of being that close to Paris and not going was unthinkable.”
After boarding a train bound for France, the family spent 12 hours in Paris. “Notre Dome was literally our first stop,” she added. “When we watched footage of the fire last night, my daughter, now 12, was in tears. Being there, in a building that has stood for 800 years, gives you more than a sense of history.”
Jenny LaCoste Caputo, with son Dante, then 14, and daughter Lexi at 8 years old, visiting Notre Dame in 2015. Photo courtesy of Jenny LaCoste Caputo.
Indeed, her entire family — son Dante, daughter Lexi and husband Anton Caputo, director of communications for UT-Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences — was in awe once they took in the iconic structure for themselves. The four were gobsmacked not only by the impressive facade that’s withstood the elements for some 850 years, but what the mighty structure represents throughout a history that transcends religion.
“The architecture, the symbolism, it all provides a sense of connection to those that came before us,” LaCoste Caputo said.
Despite the conflagration that engulfed the Gothic cathedral, the famed “rose windows” were spared. The trio of massive-scaled, stained-glass windows over the cathedral’s three main portals date to the 13th century. Photo courtesy of Jenny LaCoste Caputo.
This year was Dante’s turn to pick the family vacation. Now 18 and on the verge of graduating high school, he chose France in something of a quest to visit an old, wounded friend. The fire that transfixed the world led to the cathedral’s roof collapsing along with the famed spire added during a 19th-century renovation.
For the family, the reprise will bring togetherness in common mission, this time to pay respects to the landmark that marked a family milestone, as the world now rallies for the ancient cathedral’s recovery.
“So we’ll soon see Notre Dome again in her altered state,” LaCoste Caputo said reflectively. “I know it will be sad, but with the entire world rallying now for the cause of restoration, I hope this just becomes part of her story, which has always been one about the people Notre Dome brings together.”
Indeed, the family’s return visit this summer will be less a remembrance of things past than vision quest of a brighter future for the cathedral that brought them all close some 5,000 miles from home.
Note to readers: Please send us your stories about having visited the Notre Dame Cathedral along with photos of your trip so we can include them. Email Tony Cantú at firstname.lastname@example.org.