Victoria Leigh Soto, 1985-2012
I believe in Angels. I believe that even though we are unaware of their existence, that they walk amongst us. They look like ordinary people just like you and I. These Angels are warm hearted, kind and brave and they come to your rescue when you least expect it. One of these Angels was working at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012. This Angel had a name: Victoria Leigh Soto.
Victoria Leigh Soto was born on November 4, 1985, in Bridgeport, Connecticut to Carlos Soto, a native of Bayamón, Puerto Rico and Donna Fagan-Soto, of Irish-American descent. Her father worked for the Connecticut Department of Transportation as a crane operator and her mother was a nurse at Bridgeport Hospital. Her family moved to the City of Stratford, Connecticut when she was just a little girl. At a young age Soto was inspired by her aunt, an educator. She knew that when she grew up that she wanted to follow in her aunt’s footsteps and become a teacher. In 2003, she graduated from Stratford High School and enrolled and attended Eastern Connecticut State University where in 2008, she earned her Bachelor’s degrees in both education and history. She resided with her parents and siblings while pursuing her Master’s degree at Southern Connecticut State University. Soto was very religious and was a member of the Lordship Community Church in Stratford. She loved life and adored her two sisters and brother. She also loved Flamingos and her dog. In 2007, Soto began to teach first grade at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The school is located in Newtown, in the Fairfield County suburbs of New York City. She had a passion for teaching and became attached to her students, who called her "Miss Soto".
The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting:
On December 14, 2012, Soto was at the school doing what she loved most, teaching her first grade class. Adam Peter Lanza, a 29 year old former student, arrived at the school sometime before 9:30 a.m. after having murdered his mother. Lanza shot his way in through a locked glass door at the front of the school. He shot Principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherlach as they confronted him. The shots and screams were heard over the intercom system and Soto, fearing the worst, hid several children in a closets. When Lanza entered her classroom, Soto, in an attempt to save and protect her students, told him that the children were in the auditorium. However, several of the children then came out of their hiding place and ran. As they ran Lanza shot them dead. Soto fearing for the lives of her other students put herself between her students and the shooter. The coward then fatally shot her.
Lanza gunned down twenty first-graders and six school teachers before he committed suicide inside the school. It was the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre.
Funeral and legacy:
Soto, our heroine and Angel, died. She is now in heaven. I only hope that when I die, I will have the honor of meeting her because I want to thank her for her bravery and for convincing me that Angels still walk amongst us.
A memorial service for Soto was held on Saturday, December 15, and the funeral services took take place on Wednesday, December 19, at 10 am, in Lordship Community Church. American musician and songwriter Paul Simon performed during the funeral services and sang his song "The Sound of Silence".
On December 20, she was interred at Union Cemetery Stratford, Fairfield County, Connecticut. The State Police honor guard saluted Soto's hearse as it drove by them. Mayor John Harkins of Soto’s hometown of Stratford, Conn. is quoted as saying:
"You have a teacher who cared more about her students than herself. That speaks volumes to her character, and her commitment and dedication."
Her Alma Mater, Eastern Connecticut State University, announced the creation of the "Victoria Leigh Soto Endowed Memorial Scholarship Fund" in her honor. The scholarship will be awarded to students who aspire to become educators with the same passion and dedication as Soto.
Victoria Leigh Soto: rest in peace. You will never be forgotten.
Vicki Soto Memorial Fund