Two years ago, on Christmas morning, Madonna Badger suffered unimaginable tragedy. Her three young daughters and her parents were killed as flames tore through her sprawling home in Stamford, Conn.
Badger has opened up in an essay published in Vogue Magazine, sharing the story of her grief, trying to overcome the loss, and not giving up.
In it, she also reveals she’s getting married next year.
Badger, in the piece titled, “The Long Road Back: How to Keep Going After Unimaginable Tragedy,” explains what happened that terrible morning and what she has done to keep going in the days, weeks and months since.
She recalls opening the door to her daughter Gracie’s room Christmas morning and being overcome by smoke.
“The fire was just so intense. I think we all have this idea that we’d turn into some kind of Superwoman in situations like this – you know, we’ll get in there by any means possible, no matter how hot the fire or how thick the smoke,” she wrote. “But I couldn’t breathe.”
Badger wrote of climbing out onto the scaffolding of her unfinished home, thinking her parents and daughters had all made it outside.
Later, at the hospital, she would learn that she and Michael Borcina, the contractor she had become romantically involved with, were the only two survivors. A doctor finally delivered the blow that Badger’s entire family was dead.
A group of friends made sure that Badger was not alone as she started to deal with life-altering revelations.
Among them was William Duke, a friend since college, who she eventually fell in love with. The two plan to marry next September.
“One day he asked me out and I said yes. Recently he asked me to marry him, and I said yes to that, too. We’re getting married next September; more immediately, we’re volunteering together this Christmas to help kids in need,” Badger wrote.
Badger focused in large part about how she has been able to go on and proclaimed that she is still a mom and wants to honor her daughters’ lives by not giving up.
“It’s never going to be easy. The pain is just so huge that sometimes it feels like a prison cell,” Badger wrote.
Part of going on was choosing a place for her daughters’ ashes. It took almost two years, but she found a resting spot.
“I found a beautiful spot for them, up on a hill. And I can feel my girls and my parents with me every day,” Badger wrote. “This gives me immeasurable help.”
You can read the full essay on Vogue’s Web site.