Madonna Badger: A New Kind of Hero
At 5 a.m. on December 25th, a woman was chased from her bedroom by raging fire and oppressive smoke and clawed her way up a scaffold that braced the outside of her Victorian home. While that woman climbed, screaming hysterically, “My babies, my babies,” inside her parents and three young daughters – 9 year old Lily and 7-year-old twins, Sarah and Grace, fought a losing battle so horrible as to be unthinkable.
Over and over I imagined that last Christmas Eve, good food, laughter, presents under one of several trees throughout the house, squealing, excited little girls, grandparents that looked on with joy and pride, and the warmth of the fated fireplace embracing and extending a deceptive, rosy glow. Of course there was also the resident Santa Claus – Madonna’s father who had just finished his pre-Christmas stint as the Santa Claus for Saks in Manhattan – a job about which he had always dreamed.
When promises of real Santa’s visit were made as the lure to a final bedtime, Madonna’s girls worried whether he would be okay coming down their chimney. Not to worry, someone assured them, all remaining embers would be removed to ensure Santa’s safe journey into the Badger house. When all was finally quiet, just Michael and Madonna were left, wrapping presents into the wee-hours. It was then, when they were finished wrapping, that someone did something with those embers and put them someplace that proved catastrophic. Indeed, Santa never made it and instead, those embers traded their cozy, rosy warmth into a hellish inferno.
I have read everything I can get my hands on about the tragedy of Madonna Badger and her home on Shippan Avenue in Stamford, CT. I have read, I have cried, I have shuddered in fear and horror, and I have wondered, how does a mother go on after something like that? How does a mother deal with the guilt and helplessness? How does a mother function? How does a mother breathe?
Breathe she did. Breathe she does.
When those of us with weaker character tried to imagine even attending the funeral of our children and parents killed in such a manner, Madonna was preparing the 20-minute eulogy she would deliver to a full church. When she started out, her opening words were: “This is going to be hard.” It was hard. Albeit with tears and a few stops along the way, she prevailed.
Madonna Badger is a woman of strength, class, and graceful power. She is a woman I would want standing behind me in times of crisis. She will keep breathing. She is my idol.