Ms. Soto's First Grade Class, Sandy Hook Elementary, 12/14/2012

Victoria Soto, First Grade Teacher and Hero
Victoria Soto, First Grade Teacher and Hero

     For those that have not been in a First Grade classroom since they were children, it hasn’t changed a great deal. There is a touch of new learning technology, but there is still an abundance of crayons and contagious laughter that can only come from a six year old child. The familiar childhood art is hung on the classroom walls, a myriad of birds, butterflies, snowflakes, trees, and a few self-portraits add color and life to an otherwise uninteresting wall. There is excitement in every corner at this time of year, after all Christmas is only a few days away and these babies still believe in Santa and reindeer sleds.

     At the center of all this first grade activity was their teacher, Ms. Soto. Vicky Soto was only 27 years old, but she was everything a teacher should be and more. Elementary teachers belong to a unique club. They know when to smile, when to encourage, and even when to hug on occasion. I think they became teachers because they have the ability to look into the innocent eyes of a six year old and touch the future. Behind the beautiful eyes of these children is the artist, the writer, the doctor, or the teacher of the future and Ms. Soto understood that it was her calling in life to set that potential free to blossom. That’s why people like Vicky Soto become teachers.

     This day should have ended like most other days with small lunch boxes returned to backpacks for the trip home to Mommy and Daddy. But today, December 14, 2012, was to become a day like no other in the history of America. For on this day a “bad man” entered this place of innocence armed with an assault weapon. A weapon specifically designed and manufactured for combat.

     After the gunman entered her classroom, Ms. Soto first tried to distract him, but when the children began to run that’s when police say he opened fire with his assault weapon.  Vicky Soto sacrificed her own body to shield her “babies” and for all time will be honored as a hero for giving her own young life.

     It has been a year since this horrible day but yet nothing has changed. Someday, we may regret allowing deep divisions in our nation to block the passage of reasonable gun control legislation. Someday, we may be held accountable for doing nothing in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School Tragedy.

     If we actually do learn from history, then I quote a message from Elie Weisel on the topic of another holocaust when he said, “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented”. To forget a holocaust is to kill twice.

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