How does a mother choose from the unthinkable? In her first televised interview, an emotionally wrought Madonna says she had to decide between saving her parents or three young daughters from the horrific Christmas Day fire. Watch the video below.
In her first interview since the unspeakable tragedy, a tearful Madonna Badger recalls the day she lost nine-year-old Lily and seven-year-old twins Sarah and Grace, and her parents 71-year-old Lomer Johnson and 69-year-old Pauline Johnson.
Madonna sat down with TODAY and told Matt Lauer how she woke up choking from heavy smoke in her Stamford, Connecticut home and immediately tried to save her family.
“I had to decide ‘Do I go in and save [my parents] or save my children?” she said. “I ran the other way to save my children.”
She scrambled up the scaffolding to get to Grace’s window on the third floor and opened the window, but a cloud of black smoke hit her. “It was just the blackest — like an ocean. It was twirling, and there were embers, all kinds of stuff in it.”
She couldn’t see her girls because of the thick black smoke: “It’s impossible to describe how you can’t go in and save your own children, but I couldn’t get through that smoke.”
“I kept trying to hold my breath and put my head in, three or four times, I couldn’t get in. I couldn’t get in the window. And I’m just screaming for somebody to come help me.”
Help came, but firemen had to drag Madonna off the premises. Once in the hospital, Madonna remembers yelling, “‘Where are my parents? Where are my babies? Where are my babies?'” It took three hours before a doctor gave her the tragic news, her children and parents were dead of smoke inhalation.
Distraught, she called her close friends and her ex-husband and girls’ father Matthew Badger. “I said bring everyone. The children are gone my mom and dad are gone. there’s been a fire, just please come and help me. I was so scared.”
What exactly happened remains unclear. During the interview, Matt Lauer posed the theory about how the girls thought Santa wouldn’t be able to get down the chimney if there are ashes and embers. Madonna says it’s not the truth, claiming she saw boyfriend Michael Borcina sweep the hearth. “I watched him take [the ashes] with his hand, then shovel and put them into the bag. I watched him put his hands in the bag to make sure there’s nothing on fire in the bag.”
She said she saw how the ashes in the brown paper bag were placed on top of the plastic bins they brought in and then placed in the mud room next door; she thought the bag with the ashes posed no danger.
In her grief, questions remain. Why didn’t the smoke alarm go off? Why was her house torn down the day after the blaze? Madonna intend to sue the city of Stamford.
“I need to know the truth.”
Her longer interview will air tonight at 10 p.m. on NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams.
Watch her interview below:
— Lorraine Chow
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