Town Heals and Remembers

Hundreds Remember Young Teacher Victoria Soto

27-year-old teacher died protecting her first graders

By Emily Feldman
|  Sunday, Dec 16, 2012  |  Updated 2:41 AM EDT
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Sandy Hook School teacher Victoria Soto was honored in her hometown of Stratford after she died saving her class.

Todd Piro and Thomas Kienzler

Sandy Hook School teacher Victoria Soto was honored in her hometown of Stratford after she died saving her class.

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Saturday night hundreds gathered in Stratford, Conn. to remember the young teacher who died trying to protect her first-graders in the Newtown school shooting.

Former classmates, friends and many who had never met Victoria Soto, but wanted to pay respects to the heroic teacher, lit candles and exchanged hugs at a vigil on the green in front of Stratford's Town Hall.

"We lost one of our own," one woman with ties to Stratford High School told NBC Connecticut.

Another who attended school with her remembered her as a friendly, happy person.

The Stratford High School choir sang "Days of Plenty," and other songs that brought many to tears, the Danbury News Times reported. Soto's family huddled together and her sisters cried.

Soto's sister Carlee asked the crowd, according to the paper, to "hug the people you love. You may never see them again."

When shots rang out in the Friday morning rampage, Soto rushed her students into a closet and died trying to shield them from bullets, her cousin James Wiltsie told ABC News.

"She's definitely a hero," he said. "Her life dream was to be a teacher and her instincts kicked in."

In a photograph on her school website, Soto is seen smiling with her black lab Roxie. She wrote that she loved to "spend time reading books on the beach and soaking up the sun." She was a Yankees fan and dedicated teacher. She wrote that she was looking forward to starting her third year as a full-time first grade teacher at the school and hoped for "an amazing year" with her "amazing students of room 10!"

She was one of six faculty members and 20 children fatally shot by 20-year-old Adam Lanza Friday morning in one of the most deadly school shootings in U.S. history. Lanza was found dead at the scene as well.

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