Administrators Ready For 'Emotionally Wrenching Day'

STAMFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork) — Students returned to class Tuesday at the Windward School in Westchester County for the first time since three of their classmates were killed in a fire in Stamford on Christmas Day.

Investigators have determined that improperly placed fire embers sparked the blaze.

Lily Badger, 10, and 7-year-old twins Grace and Sarah Badger died along with their grandparents Lomer and Pauline Johnson.

Administrators at Windward said they had been bracing for what’s likely to be an “emotionally wrenching day.” Nearby schools have even offered the services of their student counselors.

Experts say that the emotional toll for those who went to school with the girls will be severe.

“It is chilling for anyone watching, but it’s particularly worrisome for those who knew the girls or went to school with them,” said Dr. Harold Koplewicz of the Child Mind Institute.

Koplewicz worked with Windward on its tragedy response plan.

“We would be surprised if children who attended school today at Windward weren’t somewhat anxious, somewhat scared,” he told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.

A number of Windward students have asked to attend a private wake for the girls and their grandparents. Among those in attendance will be a dozen Stamford firefighters who worked heroically in an attempt to save the victims.

But Capt. Paul Newman of the Stamford Fire Department said that Wednesday’s service isn’t about the firefighters.

“We don’t want the focus to be on the firefighters. We want the focus to be on the family and the tragedy that they’re going through. So most importantly we’re concerned about them,” he said.

The funeral for the Badger girls will be on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Manhattan. The service will be open to the public.

Following the service, there will be a private committal at Woodlawn Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to a memorial fund.  For more information on that, click here.

For more information on helping children cope with grief, click here.

You may share your thoughts in our comments section below…