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Residents Mourn Loss of Madison Landmark

By: Justin Williams
By: Justin Williams

"When they put it on, they had a big crane that actually set it down."

Sandy Jackson witnessed the million dollar restoration effort at Madison's Saint Raphael Cathedral, and watched as a giant crane put the new spire on the steeple.

"They just replaced the steeple this past summer, and it was beautiful—everybody was so proud of it and, you know, “Wow, that's really nice!,” says Jackson.

Today, she witnessed the 150 year old landmark's disintegration.

"We could see the black smoke pouring out and then, when we got up by the ramp up here, you could see the flames shootin' out through the roof."

Monsignor Paul Swain was asleep in the church's adjacent rectory when his alarm clock radio alerted him to the blaze. " I feel bad for all those who've labored here," says Swain. "The loss is very deep."

Gayal Olglesbay is one of those laborers, having spent eight months this past summer cutting and installing more than 100 new stones to the church's base.

"You think it's going to stay—I hoped to—had hoped to be able to drive past there when I was an old lady and see it," says Olglesbay. "But…it's just, you know, it's…it's very sad.

"It's tragic," says alderman Mike Verveer, who council district include the cathedral. "I've been here since 6, and just seeing the people—countless people coming up in a state of shock, tears in their eyes…when you think—all the memories over a 150 years.

Meanwhile the Monsignor says what remains of the building represents a blessing. "I keep looking at that cross on top of the steeple, and the sunlight and, you know, our faith is based, not around buildings. It's based on one who rose, and so, the theme of Easter is 'Light comes out of darkness,' and so faith gets us through."

With Palm Sunday less than a week away, Monsignor Swain explains his congregation had been looking forward to celebrating the Holy Week.
Now he says he joins them in simply being thankful no one was hurt.


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