A Connecticut mother whose three young daughters and parents died in a Christmas Day blaze that engulfed her million-dollar Victorian home tearfully describes the night she lost her family in her first public comments since the fire.
Madonna Badger told the "Today" show she had gone to bed after wrapping presents with her contractor friend Michael Borcina and awoke only an hour later choking on smoke. No alarms blared. The house was silent.
"It was the scariest silence," she said.
Badger said she climbed out the window and as she knelt on the porch trying to breathe through the suffocating smoke that filled her lungs, she looked back through the windows and realized she had a decision to make.
"The windows were my mom and dad's windows. So I had to decide, 'Do I go in and save them? Or do I go save my children?' And so I ran the other way to save my children," Badger told "Today."
The house was under renovation and Badger scrambled up some scaffolding to the window of her 7-year-old daughter Grace's room and opened it. Thick black smoke billowed out, blinding her. She couldn't breathe. She couldn't even see Grace -- or save her.
Choking up, Badger told "Today," "If I could have seen them, I would have gone in. It's impossible to describe how it is that you can't go in and save your own children. But I couldn't get through that smoke. I couldn't."
She says Borcina -- his eyes burned shut -- ran around the yard yelling for the girls and telling them to jump to him from upper floors. No one did.
The fire in Stamford killed 7-year-old twins Grace and Sarah Badger, 9-year-old Lily Badger, and their grandparents Lomer and Pauline Johnson.
Authorities have said the blaze was started after Borcina discarded a bag of fireplace ashes in a mudroom near the trash. Badger told "Today" the bag of ashes didn't seem dangerous because Borcina ran his hands over them before putting them in an entryway.
Prosecutors announced earlier this month that no criminal charges would be filed in connection with the deadly blaze, citing "insufficient evidence" and an investigation hampered by the actions of some officials, including demolishing the house before all inspections could be carried out.
Badger has previously said she plans to sue the city of Stamford for property damage, personal injury and civil rights violations, arguing the city failed to give her proper notice and compensation when it tore down the charred remains of her home.
As for how she's dealing with the remains of her life, one she must live without the three beautiful young girls she elegantly eulogized at their January funeral, Badger told "Today" she's doing it "a day at a time."
“I mean, there’s really no way — every day I wake up and I have to remember, you know? So every day I have to go through that day. And then another day starts. So really it’s just one day at a time,” she said.
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