More than 1,000 people packed inside Midtown’s St. Thomas Church Thursday to pay their respects to three little girls who died in a tragic Christmas Day fire.
Madonna Badger, the grieving mother of Lily, 9, and twins Grace and Sarah, 7, spoke tenderly about her children at a public funeral in their memory.
“I want to remember my girls out loud,” Badger said. “My girls are in my heart. They’re right here, and that’s where they live now.”
Badger, a renowned New York City fashion executive, broke down several times while speaking, but continued despite her tears.
“All they left behind is love,” said Badger.
The girls died in a fire at Badger’s home in Stamford, Conn. The home, which was under renovation at the time, was wired for smoke detectors and alarms, but they hadn't been installed yet, according to the New York Post.
Matthew Badger, the girls’ father, who is separated from his wife, did not speak, but asked Rev. Dr. William S. Shillady to speak for him.
He described Grace as a “force of creative nature,” Lily like “a beautiful song,” and Sarah as wise beyond her years, a person who “saw the goodness in all of us.”
The Badgers asked that Lily, Grace and Sarah be remembered through acts of service. Each guest was given a donation card for a foundation set up in the girls’ honor, The Other 364 Foundation. Musician Rufus Wainwright sang “Over the Rainbow.”
The funeral was followed by a private burial ceremony in the Bronx.
How did fire start?
The fatal fire occurred in the early morning hours of Christmas Day.
The blaze began from embers Badger and boyfriend Michael Borcina removed from the fireplace after they were up late wrapping gifts on Christmas Eve, fire investigators said.
Borcina removed the ashes at the girls’ request, according to reports, so Santa would not be burned coming down the chimney.
The embers ignited, and only Badger and Borcina were able to escape as the house was destroyed.
Badger’s parents, Pauline, 69, and Lomer Johnson, 71, also perished in the flames.
Follow Emily Anne Epstein on Twitter @EmilyatMetro.