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Sandy Hook teacher Victoria Soto is given a hero's farewell

December 19, 2012|By Matt Pearce

They had to bury Vicki Soto on Wednesday and took care in doing so.

Soto -- her full name was Victoria Leigh Soto -- lived in Stratford, Conn., about a 40-minute drive from Sandy Hook Elementary School, where she taught first grade. She liked the Yankees, she liked books. She had a big black Labrador retriever named Roxie.

Soto, 27, had blue eyes and a big smile. She died Friday morning trying to protect her students from Adam Lanza, 20, who had shot his way into her school and found her in her classroom.

PHOTOS: Mourning after the massacre

She had hidden her students in the closet. Some of them survived. Some didn't, and they would have to be buried too.

It was Soto's third year teaching at the school, and she'd had plans to keep going: She was studying for her master's in special education at Southern Connecticut State University.

President Obama, mentioning Soto by name, had said at an interfaith service that she and her fellow teachers had "responded as we all hope we might respond in such terrifying circumstances -- with courage and with love, giving their lives to protect the children in their care."

Five days after the shooting, Soto received a hero's funeral at the Lordship Community Church in Stratford, though, according to the New Haven Register, Jillian Soto said at the service that her sister had been a “hero to me a lot longer than five days. You have been my big sister. I always wanted to be like you.”

Soto received a police honor guard -- officers in full dress and white gloves, marching in precise formation. A group of men in black suits carried her flower-laden casket up the small flight of steps leading into the church. Singer Paul Simon came, too, and sang "The Sound of Silence," ABC reporters said afterward.

The intensity of the grief could be counted in the number of metal chairs that had been set up outside the church for the overflow crowd, dressed in black accented with green ribbons. Photographers were kept at a distance by barricades and before the service began, one of them spotted a young boy with blond hair sitting on the church steps. The boy wore a green jacket. Green was Soto's favorite color.

Soto also loved flamingos, and after the funeral, Carlee, her sister, tweeted a photo of a pink flamingo wearing a green ribbon and added, "Yes Vicki, there are flamingoes in heaven."

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