TAMPA, Fla. — When flames engulfed the top of Notre Dame, USF retired professor Louis Marcus was just a 30-minute walk away.
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"I actually found out about the fire from a colleague at USF who I was talking to on the phone," Professor Marcus said.
Marcus and his wife had to see it for themselves.
The fire was out by then, and the mood was somber.
"It was kind of like going to a funeral that evening," Marcus said.
Now, Marcus is hoping to turn this tragedy into a teachable moment for the study abroad program he started more than 30 years ago.
It's USF's Summer Art program in Paris. Usually the trip includes a visit to Notre Dame.
Students have gone inside, said prayers there, and marveled at the historic pieces. But this year will be a lot different.
"It's unfortunate they'll be able to see it from the exterior but it will be quite a long time, several years before anyone is able to go inside of it,” Marcus said.
For theater major Niatikqua Brooks, it's disappointing.
"I was kind of upset that I'm not going to be able to see this historical place," Brooks said.
But what the students will be able to do is embrace a dark part of history.
"We're going to see work being done, people standing around and we plan on trying to incorporate that into our final performance," Brooks said.
Professors are also adding a walking meditation performance during their trip.
"The students will be walking from the studio in a line doing gestures, speaking text, maybe singing, maybe being silent," said Professor Michael Foley, who is director of the USF Dance in Paris Program. "This will be a way to honor the city that we love."
They'll perform outside Notre Dame.
Foley said it's a way to connect the students with the grief. It's a way to show unity with the people of Paris.