Woman who lost parents, 3 children in Christmas fire opens up about tragedy

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Madonna Badger, the Connecticut woman who lost who parents and three young daughters in a Christmas morning fire two years ago, opened up Vogue about how she has coped with the devastating tragedy.


In the magazine’s December issue, Badger personally describes the day leading up to the fire that killed her parents Lomer and Pauline Johnson and her three daughters, nine-year-old Lilly and seven-year-old twins Grace and Sarah.

Badger describes desperately trying to save her daughters, and how she ended up in a psych ward on Christmas day when she learned her family had perished.

In the memoir, Badger details bringing herself back from the brink of suicide and finding happiness after the most horrible thing possible happened.

A trip to Thailand, Badger says, was a turning point in her grief. During her trip, Badger says she gave old toys of her daughters’ to the young girls and the experience, “broke me open in a way I still can’t fully explain. But if these little girls were living their lives with joy and happiness, I realized—and if they could give their love to me after all they had been through—how could I possibly feel sorry for myself?”


“I can feel my girls and my parents with me everyday,” Badger says. “This gives me immeasurable hope.”

“It’s never going to be easy. The pain is just so huge that sometimes it feels like a prison cell,” Badger writes. “But trying really hard to not feel sorry for myself makes me feel good. Being of service helps the pain to go away, if only for a little while, and giving and receiving love makes me feel good. Basically, I go to wherever the light is, because anything else is darkness, and it can be a deeply black darkness.”

Badger is now engaged to her longtime friend Bill Duke and is back working at Calvin Klein. Her wedding is scheduled for September of next year.

“At a certain point, you can either be full of hate or full of love—it can go either way,” Badger says. “I have no hate in my heart, no bitterness, and I am blessed by this.”

To read the full story, visit Vogue.com.

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