— In an exclusive interview with TODAY’s Matt Lauer that aired Thursday, Madonna Badger spoke out for the first time about the night she lost her family in a Connecticut house fire last Christmas.
The blaze, which officials believe started from embers that her boyfriend, Michael Borcina, had placed in a paper bag, engulfed her $1.7 million Victorian home in Stamford, Conn., claiming the lives of 7-year-old twins Grace and Sarah and 9-year-old Lily, as well as Badger’s parents.
When Badger awoke in bed the night of the fire, choking from the smoke, she did not hear an alarm.
“It was silent,’’ she said. “It was the scariest silence.’’
She climbed out the window. She recalled in harrowing detail her efforts to get back into the house. On her knees on the front porch looking through the windows, she 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."
But scaffolding that had been set up for renovations prevented her from entering.
"I scrambled up the scaffolding to get to Grace's window. And I opened that window and the smoke that hit me, it was just the blackest, like an ocean. There was twirling and there was embers and all kinds of stuff in it. And I kept trying to hold my breath and put my head in...And I couldn't get in."
She saw her boyfriend Borcina fall out the back bedroom window as fire trucks arrived. His eyes, she said, had been burned shut. Still, he shouted to the girls through the windows to jump to him.
Badger never got a glimpse of her girls.
"It was the blackest smoke I've ever seen," she told Lauer. "If I could have seen them, I would have gone in. I mean, 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."
Ten days after the fire, Badger spoke at her daughters' funeral.
Lauer asked what many wondered: How did she find the strength to eulogize her children, so soon after their deaths?
"I don't know," she replied. "I don't know. I think it was all God's grace. I have no idea."