WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump expressed condolences to French President Emmanuel Macron during a phone call Tuesday over Monday's fire that extensively damaged Notre Dame Cathedral, the White House said.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze Tuesday morning. French officials are now assessing the damage.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders addressed the fire Tuesday, saying in a statement the U.S. has offered to help rehabilitate 'this irreplaceable symbol of Western civilization.'
'France is the oldest ally of the United States, and we remember with grateful hearts the tolling of Notre Dame's bells on September 12, 2001, in solemn recognition of the tragic September 11th attacks on American soil,' Sanders said in her statement. 'Those bells will sound again. ...Vive la France!'
Sanders' deliberate remarks contrasted sharply with Trump's seemingly impromptu suggestion Monday for French authorities to immediately use 'flying water tankers' to help extinguish the fire. 'Must act quickly,' Trump declared on Twitter.
Trump's comments were dismissed by French authorities who pointedly responded that 'all means are being used, except for water-bombing aircraft.' They explained that the force of falling water could destroy the Gothic edifice.
Fire chief Lt. Col. Michael Bernier, a spokesman for France's civil defense organization, described Trump's suggestion as 'risible.'
Bernier added that such a move would have endangered the lives of firefighters and anyone else in the area.