FALL RIVER (CBS) – The devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is bringing back haunting memories in Fall River. A fire nearly four decades ago destroyed that city’s Notre Dame.

A former worker there that day called it catastrophic, but they did rebuild.

“First of all the parish lost its soul that day,” said Roland Masse.

Fire destroyed the Notre Dame de Lourdes Church in Fall River in May 1982 (Image credit WPRI)

In May 1982, Fall River lost its own iconic church, Notre Dame de Lourdes.

“They said hurry, there’s a fire in the attic!” said Masse, who was church sexton there for 33 years. Carpenters renovating the church broke the news.

Fire destroyed the Notre Dame de Lourdes Church and several apartment buildings in Fall River in May 1982 (Image credit WPRI)

“So we grabbed fire extinguishers,” Masse recalled. “We ran up all these stairs to get up to the attic. Couldn’t get in. There was so much smoke you could not enter the attic.”

A few hours later, the church was gone.

“Your chest tightens up, and it’s so hard and it lasts forever,” he said. “This was years ago our fire, it still bothers me.”

Roland Masse (WBZ-TV)

In Boston, Cardinal O’Malley led a mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross as prayers were said for Notre Dame in Paris. The Cardinal says recent renovations at the Boston church could prevent a similar devastating fire.

“These old churches if you don’t restore them, eventually you’ll lose them,” O’Malley said. “We were very, very, grateful to do the restoration at this point after 150 years.”

Back in Fall River, Roland Masse says looking at video of the Paris inferno is a painful trip back in time. “It brought it all back,” Masse said. “To the point of tears. Even now it’s emotional.”

A new church was built at the spot where the church burned down in Fall River.


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