NEW YORK, N.Y. — Some 800 mourners stood in silent unity at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in New York City on Thursday morning as small caskets containing the bodies of the three girls killed in a Christmas Day fire in Stamford were rolled to the front of the altar.
Following the caskets were the girls’ parents, Matthew and Madonna Badger, who received hugs and kisses as they made their way down the aisle of the Fifth Avenue church. Michael Borcina, a friend of Madonna Badger's and the other survivor of the fire, trailed behind with other close friends and family members.
Lily, 10, and twins Sarah and Grace Badger, 7, and their grandparents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson, died of smoke inhalation during the fire at their Shippan Point home.
Both parents offered stories about their daughters during the service. They said Lily was shy, but that once she loved someone that is all she would show. That Grace was creative and inventive and didn’t care what others thought. That Sarah was loving and always tried to make people happy. Madonna Badger spoke, but Matthew Badger had the Rev. William Shillady read his eulogy for him.
In addition to reflecting on her daughters' lives, Madonna Badger said she will find a way to make it through this tragedy by carrying the girls with her in her heart. She added that their legacy will be love and urged those present to help others out of unconditional love to honor Lily, Sarah and Grace.
“There is no power on earth greater than love,” Badger said during her eulogy of the other members of her “girl tribe,” which is how she described herself and her girls.
After reading the words from the girls’ father, Shillady remarked that even though people question God’s role in the tragic fire, God did not want the girls to die, and that his heart broke just like the hearts of their family and friends.
“Your heart broke, too, and that is why you are here today,” Shillady said.
Among those in attendance were Stamford Mayor Michael Pavia, Acting Fire Chief Antonio Conte and about 40 first responders who entered the church in double-file and processed down the aisle before sitting in their reserved seats.
After the sermon, there were three musical remembrances, including Rufus Wainwright’s rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” before the commendation was made and the caskets were carried out of the church.