The 2010 real estate listing for 2267 Shippan Ave. Stamford is still on the Internet. While the house sold on Dec. 7 of that year, a visitor to the real estate site can see photographs of the 1895 Victorian home that overlooks Long Island Sound. The photo montage presents an inviting, comfortable and homey view of the home's interior and exterior. One can envision sipping iced tea or lemonade in summer on the veranda with its water views or romping on the lush green lawn. Who could imagine in its widest imagination that a little over a year later the family that moved into that home would experience one of the greatest tragedies a person could face -- the loss of children and parents to a fatal fast-moving fire.
Today, the Internet shows scores of photographs of the house charred and then demolished into a heap of gray debris.
According to recent news reports, Madonna Badger attempted suicide days after she and her estranged husband buried their three young girls, 7-year-old twins and their 9-year-old sister. Badger also lost her parents in the fire that ignited early Christmas morning. She survived along with her boyfriend, contractor Michael Borcina, head of Tiberias Construction, the company that was renovating the house.
While we have spent five years following the deaths of members of another Connecticut family, the Petits of Cheshire in which a wife and two daughters were murdered in a home invasion, we now follow the developing details in the wake of the house fire in Stamford in which investigators and the state's attorney's office are expected to release a report that should indicate whether or not charges will be filed in the fatal fire, allegedly started when Borcina placed embers from a fireplace fire in a container in or near a back mudroom.
Madonna Badger and her husband, Matthew, who were in the process of a divorce, had been living apart and media reports say Borcina was Madonna Badger's contractor and her boyfriend. It was indeed eerie to see his hand placed on her shoulder while she fell grieving onto the shoulder of her estranged husband as the distraught parents watched the caskets of their three children brought into a Fifth Avenue church for funeral services.
This tragedy leaves us with so many questions as we read reports of the fire. Of course, as someone who only knows the circumstances of the event from what one reads in the newspapers and online, still I wonder what Madonna Badger was really thinking in the way she allowed Borcina to be such an intimate part of her family when she was not legally divorced.
The fire gives all of us cause to pause and to take inventory, in all aspects in our own homes. Reports indicate there were no operable smoke alarms. Do our own houses have operable smoke alarms? Reports indicate that the fire may have been caused by the smoldering ash that was left in or near the house and then ignited the blaze. How do we dispose of our own ashes from a fire? How clean is our chimney?
What exactly were the sleeping arrangements? Reports indicate that the twins were sleeping on the third floor and Badger, her boyfriend, oldest daughter and her parents were sleeping on the second. If this is true, I question the sound judgment in having two 7-year-olds sleep on a separate floor from a parent.
On the Internet we can hear 911 calls from neighbors reporting the fire, but none from Badger or Borcina. Did one of them call 911? Was there a cellphone near the bed?
When I discuss my questions with one of my adult daughters, she responds that I am not one to comment about the circumstances within the Badger household. Like Badger, I got divorced when I was in my 40s and yes, I did not waste time in dating men. When you are in your early 40s, working full-time, raising young children and going through a divorce, it is not unusual to want to meet someone special.
So we as women can understand why she had a boyfriend in her home before she was legally divorced, but we women need to apply some of the perspective and thinking we use in our professional lives to our personal lives. I admit I carry a lot of guilt on my own shoulders. Fortunately, there have been no tragedies, but there were times I could have put my children and myself in harm's way.
Then there are the questions swirling around Borcina's track record as a contractor. Reports question whether he has a current license to work in Connecticut and whether he has met his financial obligations to former clients.
A big question is why the rush to demolish the house the day after the fire? Who made the decision? Who signed the paperwork? And what may have been covered up in the debris?
Rita Papazian is a freelance writer who has covered Norwalk extensively. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.