Victoria “Vicki” Soto, 27, a first grade teacher in Sandy Hook elementary school, shielded children and ushered them into a closet, putting herself between them and the gunman and giving her life in Friday’s tragic and senseless shooting, her cousin told NY Daily News.
Soto, who taught at the school for five years, was living her “life’s dream,” her cousin said.
According to UK’s Daily Mail, “Soto sacrificed herself to save her students — throwing her body in front of the young children.”
Amanda Enriquez of Orlando, a childhood friend of Soto’s, took to Twitter to share her condolences and heavy heart. “Vicki Soto, a young teacher and one of my childhood friends lost her life today protecting her students, you’ll forever be a hero in my eyes,” she wrote. A Twitter user named Joseph said Soto was a close friend of his.
In a post on his Tumblr blog he shared unconfirmed details he believes to be true.
“I talked to Vicki Tuesday and she told me that she loved her 16 angels and never wanted to let them go,” he wrote in a heartbreaking post. “Today when the shooting started Vicki hid her kids in closets and when the gunman came into her room she told them the class was in gym. She was then murdered.”
Soto’s love for teaching and for her students is evident from those who knew her and a glimpse can be seen on her Pinterest page, which is full of photos that show teaching ideas. Of the two photos publicly visible on her Facebook profile, one showed her in class and the other showed a group of children jumping joyfully on the beach.
On Twitter, many called Soto the ultimate hero.
Vicki soto is a hero, she put her life on the line to protect her students. Rest in peace, I have no words. — Shannon Goldkopf (@lovenotexox) December 14, 2012
I respect and honor Vicki Soto because I know she died protecting her students, she will be always remembered as a hero. Rest in peace — Jason Potter (@Jay_Pottzz) December 14, 2012
My prayers to vicki soto who was shot while shielding her students behind a closet door, she saved so many children — Julianna Umbehr (@JUmbehr21) December 15, 2012
Her cousin echoed the statements from those who honored her online. “I’m very proud to have known Vicki,” he said to ABC News. “Her life’s dream was to be a teacher and her instincts kicked in when she saw that there was harm coming towards her students.”