Hero teacher Victoria Soto to be buried
NEWTOWN, Conn. (NBC) -- Four of Newtown’s children have been buried – and now one of its heroic teachers will be laid to rest on Wednesday.
Victoria Soto, whose family said she died protecting her terrified students from rifle fire, will be remembered in her hometown of Stratford, Conn., where the 27-year-old still lived with her close-knit family.
It’s expected many of the mourners will be wearing scarves and ribbons of green – Soto’s favorite color. Her family is certain to talk about her devotion to her students, so many of whom were murdered despite her selfless efforts.
“They brought a smile to her face always,” her sister, Carlee, told TODAY on Sunday. “She loved those students more than anything. She didn’t call them her students. She called them her kids.”
Soto’s aunt was a teacher, and she always knew she wanted to follow in her footsteps. At Sandy Hook Elementary, where she was in her fifth year of teaching, she presided over Classroom 10 with a warm smile.
On Friday morning, she was finishing up her daily morning meeting with the class when gunman Adam Lanza began his rampage.
Her cousin, Fairfield County Police Officer James Wiltsie, said the family was told by authorities that Soto hurried the kids into a closet behind her, “trying to shield them from the spray of bullets.”
“Doing instinctively what she knew to do,” he said.
Some of the children in her class managed to survive the slaughter. Many did not.
The parents of one of Soto’s slain students, Dylan Hockley, praised her in an obituary for their 6-year-old.
“Dylan's teacher, Vicki Soto, was warm and funny and Dylan loved her dearly,” they wrote.
A nation mourns after the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history at Sandy Hook Elementary, which left 20 children and six staff members dead.
Hundreds of people turned out for a Saturday night memorial to honor Soto in Stratford. Her funeral will take place at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Lordship Community Church.
She will be buried less than a week before Christmas, her favorite holiday -- “she was the only one allowed to pick out the tree and put up the lights,” her obituary noted.
She also loved flamingos, the New York Yankees and her dog, Roxie. The loyal pet “waited for her to come home every day and is still waiting, lost without her,” her family wrote.
Gene Rosen was finishing up his morning routine this past Friday when he noticed six small children sitting at the end of his driveway. He soon discovered they were some of the lucky ones to escape gunfire alive. He talks about taking them into his home and learning that their teacher, Victoria Soto, had been killed.
Soto’s funeral, one of several scheduled for Wednesday, follows services for four Sandy Hook 6-year-olds – Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, James Mattioli and Jessica Rekos – held earlier this week.
Heartbreaking details of young lives snuffed out continue to emerge as Newtown’s students return to classes and as the renewed debate over gun control rages across the nation.
The parents of Allison Wyatt, 6, released a statement Tuesday that recalled how she once offered her snack to a stranger on a plane and would transform sections of their home into an “art studio” with taped-up pictures.
“Allison made the world a better place for six, far too short years and we now have to figure out how to move on without her. She was a sweet, creative, funny, intelligent little girl who had an amazing life ahead of her,” they wrote.
“Our world is a lot darker now that she’s gone.”