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Victoria Leigh Soto was a teacher in the United States murdered during the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. When Adam Lanza entered the school armed to murder those inside, she hid her students. Victoria Soto died shielding several elementary school children from Lanza’s gunfire.

Biography of Victoria Soto

Victoria Leigh Soto was born on November 4, 1985, in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Her father, Carlos Soto, originated Bayamón, Puerto Rico, and her mother, Donna Fagan-Soto, is from the U.S. and of Irish-American ancestry.[1] Carlos worked as a crane operator for the Department of Transportation in Connecticut and Donna worked for 30 years as a nurse for Bridgeport Hospital. A brother and sister survive her.[2] The Soto family moved to Stratford, Connecticut and she studied at Stratford High School. She graduated in 2003. Soto then enrolled in Eastern Connecticut State University. She double majored in history and education and received two Bachelor’s degrees in 2008. After graduation, she pursued a Master’s degree at Southern Connecticut State University.[3]

Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting

On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza killed his mother and left his house with a Sig Sauer, a Glock, two semi-automagical handguns, and a semi-automatic rifle. He invaded Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut while wearing a bulletproof vest. He then proceeded to shoot students and faculty. The 20-year-old killed 26 people in total that day, 20 children and 6 adults, including the school principal, Dawn Hochsprung. He killed himself before authorities could apprehend him.

Death of Victoria Leigh

Victoria Leigh Soto taught first grade at Sandy Hook Elementary School. On that fateful day of December 14, while conducting class as normal, Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook and started to shoot both students and faculty.

Victoria Leigh Soto demonstrated extraordinary bravery and heroism by jumping in front of a gunman to protect her elementary school students.

Soto hid many of her students in a classroom closet before Lanza reached her room. She insisted the children fled to the gym, but a few scared students emerged from their hiding places and Lanza began shooting.[4] She reportedly “threw herself in front of her first grade students” to protect them from gunman.[5] Jessica Hill, a photographer for the Associated Press, captured the moment Victoria Leigh’s sister waited to hear about the fate of Soto on her cell phone. The emotional image spread over social media and quickly came to represent the shooting across the world.[6]

Rememberance

The memorial service for Victoria Soto took place on December 15, 2012. The funeral occurred four days later, on December 19, at her local church, Lordship Community Church.[7] The famous songwriter and musician from the U.S., Paul Simon, sang at the funeral and performed “The Sound of Silence.”[8] She is buried in Union Cemetery in Stratford, Connecticut.[9] On the way to her interment, the Connecticut State Police honor guard saluted her hearse.[10]

Victoria Soto’s Legacy

Immediately after Victoria Soto’s death, Eastern Connecticut State University created the Victoria Leigh Soto Endowed Memorial Scholarship Fund to help support students aspiring to become teachers.[11] The same month, local residents petitioned Stratford, Connecticut to rename North Parade to “Victoria Soto Way.”[12] The Stratford High School Class of 2003 created the Victoria L. Soto Memorial Fund on December 17. This fund helped pay for her funeral services, a memorial at her formal high school, and a scholarship fund to honor their lost class member.[13]

Victoria Leigh Soto did not die in vain, and many remembrances exist to uphold her legacy.

The mayor of Stratford, John Harkins, proposed naming a new district school in the process of being built Victoria Soto Elementary School on January 14, 2013. The Stratford Town Council approved the decision unanimously. Harkens also established a fund to build a memorial, that may feature a statute of Soto, to honor her sacrifice.[14] Victoria Leigh and five other faculty members murdered by Lanza posthumously received the Presidential Citizens Medal on February 15, 2013.[15] The Presidential Citizens Medal honors people who perform “exemplary deeds of service” for their fellow citizens or the U.S.[16]

The nonprofit organization Big Brothers, Big Sisters established the “Victoria Soto Volunteer Award” in honor of her time as a mentor with the program. Ana Robles became the first person to receive the award on April 25, 2013.[17] The Victoria Soto School opened in 2015 with a ribbon cutting ceremony at Soto’s high school in Stratford. The school educates pre-kindergarten up through second-grade students.[18]

References

Bibliography


The Huffington Post (2012, December 16). Victoria Soto, Newtown Teacher, Emerges As Hero After Shooting. Huffington Post.

Footnotes

  1. Delgado, J. A. (2012, December 18). Cita con los ángeles de Newtown (Date with the Angels of Newtown). El Nuevo Dia.
  2. The Huffington Post, 2012
  3. Family of Victoria Leigh Soto (2012, December 18). Obituary - Victoria Leigh Soto. Newtown Bee
  4. The Huffington Post, 2012
  5. Staff reports. (2012, December 15). Teacher from Stratford shielded students. Newstimes.
  6. Roberts, C. (2012, December 18). Photo of her own reaction “kills” sister of teacher killed in Newtown. New York Daily News.
  7. The Huffington Post, 2012
  8. Paddock, B. (2012, December 20). Paul Simon sings at Victoria Soto funeral. New York Daily News.
  9. Find A Grave. (2012, December 14). Victoria Leigh Soto (1985 - 2012). Find A Grave Memorial.
  10. Ocasio, K. T. (2012, December 19). ’Sound of silence’ lays hero teacher to rest. CTPost.
  11. Osborn, E. (2012, December 17). Eastern Announces Victoria Soto Endowed Scholarship Fund. Eastern Connecticut State University.
  12. Lambeck, L. C. (2012, December 26). Petition asks for a street named for Victoria Soto, a teacher slain at Sandy Hook. Greenwich Time.
  13. The Vicki Soto Memorial Fund Inc. (2012). Victoria Leigh Soto. Vicki Soto Memorial.
  14. Associated Press (2013, January 7). Connecticut mayor proposes naming school after Newtown massacre victim. Fox News.
  15. Compton, M. (2013, February 15). President Obama Presents the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal. The White House.
  16. Associated Press. (2013, February 5). Sandy Hook teachers to receive presidential medals for heroism. NBC Latino.
  17. Kenefick, C. (2013, April 24). Latina “big sister” to receive Victoria Soto volunteer award. CT Latino News.
  18. Trivino, C., & Mason, A. (2015, August 28). Victoria Soto School Opens in Stratford. NBC Connecticut.

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