Emotionally prepare yourself. Matt Lauer’s interview with Madonna Badger is simply heart-wrenching. Badger is the mother who lost her three young daughters and her parents on Christmas morning when her Stamford, Connecticut, home caught fire.
In an exclusive interview with Lauer, Badger tells her story of unimaginable loss — reliving her memories of her children and parents from their last Christmas Eve, sharing how she’s coping and discussing her need for answers on what truly happened just six months ago. A segment of the interview was featured on The Today Show this morning, with a continuation tomorrow. She’s also the focus of Rock Center with Brian Williams tonight on NBC at 10pm ET/9pm CT.
The fire killed her three daughters — Lilly, 9, and her twin 7-year-olds, Grace and Sarah, as well as her adoring parents Lomer and Pauline Johnson. They were all at the home the night of the fire, including Badger’s then boyfriend Michael Borcina (who was also the contractor renovating her home).
Through much anguish she relives her last Christmas Eve with her family, talking about how they were decorating the house, reading Christmas stories and so happy. After the kids went to bed, Badger said she and Borcini wrapped gifts and cleaned up the house some. Since the family had a wood-burning fire going that evening, Borcini had swept up the ashes along the hearth and placed the ashes in a brown bag, which was left on top of a plastic container inside the house.
“I saw them as ashes that were in front of the fireplace,” she tells Lauer. “I watched him put his hands in the bag to see that nothing was on fire in the bag.”
The couple then enjoyed a piece of apple pie and sat on the sofa for a bit before retiring to their separate bedrooms. Badger says when she and Borcini went up to bed she recalls looking at the bag of ashes. “I remember thinking to myself, I should put that outside and then I remember thinking, but I watched him put his hands through it.”
They slept for less than an hour. “I woke up and I was choking and I realized there was a fire.” She heard no smoke detectors, it was silent. She got down on her knees and got out the front window, where she was faced with a decision. Does she go to the window immediately next to her and help her parents or try to save her children?
“I ran the other way to save my children.” The house had scaffolding on the outside of the turret that was her daughter Grace’s room. “I opened the window and the smoke that hit me, it was just the blackest. … I kept trying to hold my breath and put my head in and I couldn’t get in the window. … I’m just screaming for someone to come and help me.”
“Mike fell out of the back bedroom window and he was running around the house and his eyes were shut because they were burned shut and he was screaming ‘Jump to me. Jump to me. Girls where are you?”
Her chilling details leave you sick at heart. And still many questions loom about the fire, specifically why didn’t the smoke alarms go off? Why was the house torn down the day after the fatal blaze? “I need to know the truth,” Badger said.
NBC will look more at the unanswered questions tonight on Rock Center with Brian Williams at 10pm ET and air more of the interview with Badger tomorrow on The Today Show.