Three Connecticut girls killed in Christmas Day fire are mourned
Next to each small mahogany casket adorned with pink and white lilies was a photograph of one of three young Badger sisters who died Christmas morning in a house fire in Stamford, Conn. In an adjoining room were the bodies of the girls' grandparents in matching cherry wood caskets.
Family, friends and the firefighters who tried to rescue the sleeping family paid respects Wednesday at a private wake at a Manhattan funeral home. A public funeral expected to draw thousands is scheduled for Thursday morning at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Manhattan.
Nine-year-old Lily and 7-year-old twins Sarah and Grace died along with their grandparents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson, trying to escape the blaze. Fireplace embers left in a bucket in the house's mudroom but not doused with water are blamed for the inferno. Officials told the Associated Press this week that the girls wanted the ash out of the fireplace to clear the way for Santa Claus to come through the chimney.
Madonna Badger, who lost her daughters and parents but who survived the fire along with her companion Michael Borcina, was shown in photographs in the local media as she left the wake on the Upper East Side on Wednesday. Leaning on two funeral home workers for support, Badger looked to be bearing a kind of grief that is unimaginable.
Also at the wake were the girls' father, Matthew Badger, Borcina and about 200 friends and family as well as several Stamford firefighters.
Stamford Fire Chief Antonio Conte was overcome with grief when he tried to talk to reporters outside the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home, according to the New York Daily News.
"The closure you're looking for when you see those little caskets ... it just doesn't come," said a shaken Conte, the Daily News reported.
A foundation has been established in the girls' honor, called The Other 364 Foundation, "whose mission is to champion compassion every day of the year," according to a blurb on badgerandwinters.com, the website of Madonna Badger's advertising agency.
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Photo: The house in Stamford, Conn., where an early-morning fire on Dec. 25 killed two adults and three children, was later torn down. Credit: Bettina Hansen/Hartford Courant/MCT