Written by Anthony Moujaes
Victoria Soto, the Connecticut teacher who sacrificed her life for her students when she was gunned down in the Newtown elementary school massacre, is being honored for her sacrifice by the community she served. A member of Lordship Community United Church of Christ, Soto will be remembered for her dedication to education, as the Stratford Town Council voted to name a new school after her.
The decision at Monday's meeting was unanimous and met with applause. Soto's family attended the council meeting. Jillian Soto, one of Victoria's three siblings, told media organizations she is "happy that the town was able to come together and pass this and I feel honored that my sister's name will stay alive and she will never be forgotten."
In the last month, Soto's story has been well documented, propelled by major news organizations and social media. She has been hailed a hero who gave her life to save several children from a gunman's bullets during a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School Dec. 14. Soto hid her first-grade students in a closet and died trying to shield them from the gunman. She was 27 years old.
Construction for the new elementary school for grades K-2 on the Stratford Academy campus will break ground this summer. The vote to name the school after Soto came one month after the tragic shooting, in which 26 innocent lives were lost, 20 of them children. Musician Paul Simon sang at Soto's funeral service, and the Connecticut State Police saluted her hearse on its way to the cemetery.
Soto was in her fifth year at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a teacher who loved her work and her students. She was a 2003 graduate of Stratford High School before earning degrees in education and history from Eastern Connecticut State.
"She is from a large extended family of great faith," the Rev. Margaret Williams, pastor at Lordship Community Church, said. "I think that her family and church community is shocked with sadness, but also incredibly proud of the heroism she showed."
An online petition also asked the council to change the name of the street in front of Stratford High School to Victoria Soto Way.
The aftermath of the shooting has spurred debate on gun control; 47 faith leaders, including UCC General Minister and President the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, sent a letter to President Obama and to Congress asking for increased gun-violence prevention measures. President Obama just announced a plan that would outlaw assault rifles, limit the number of rounds in a magazine to 10 and tighten background checks on gun sales. Tuesday, the state of New York approved the toughest gun restrictions in the country.