GREENSBORO, N.C. — Thousands watched helplessly from the streets and buildings as a huge fire engulfed parts of the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

People in America and other parts of the world watched on television, cell phones and social media.

A Triad student and her cousin were in Paris and they witnessed it in person.

UNC Greensboro Sophomore Katie Freedman, who is studying abroad, said she had just been inside the cathedral the day before. However, she returned on Monday to get a Rosary for her mother and neighbor.

"It's really meaningful to me because my mom is very devoted Catholic and I've got her rosaries from many places around the world," said Freedman.

That's when she said the fire erupted and there was some confusion as to what was happening at the time. She feared she was in the middle of another terrorist attack on Paris.

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"We were headed into the church when it went up in flames. My cousin was really scared that it was like a ruse and that they were going to actually fire at the crowd afterward because there were thousands of people and it would've just been an easy target," said Freedman.

Authorities investigating later said the fire was the result of a construction accident during an ongoing restoration of the Gothic Masterpiece.

While there was some relief that the iconic church wasn't set on fire on purpose, there is great sadness about the damage to the historic building.

"This close to Easter, it just hurts because you know there are a lot of Catholics that go to that church daily and you can go as a tourist and you can see all the practicing Catholics," said Freedman who was on a bus going to Luxemburg, Germany.

"You know that they're not going to have a church to go to and will have to go somewhere else that's not their home church for Easter," she concluded.

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