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Victoria Soto, the heroic teacher who gave her life to save terrified children

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Heroic: Victoria Soto's cousin, Jim Wiltsie, said police had told him that she was trying to usher her pupils into a storage room when she came face-to-face with Lanza
Heroic: Victoria Soto's cousin, Jim Wiltsie, said police had told him that she was trying to usher her pupils into a storage room when she came face-to-face with Lanza

Victoria Soto died a hero as she protected her students from Adam Lanza, shielding the children by putting herself between them and the gunman.

Ms Soto was one of four adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School who sacrificed themselves for the youngsters in their care.

Three were teachers, the other was the school psychologist.

One teacher, Natalie Hammond, 40, was shot in the arm and leg and is the only wounded survivor of the massacre. Her injuries are not thought to be life-threatening.

When Lanza began his murderous rampage, some staff members dived under tables.

But Ms Soto, 27, rushed towards the killer, blocking the bullets with her body.

Her cousin, Jim Wiltsie, said police had told him that she was trying to usher her pupils into a storage room when she came face-to-face with Lanza.

'She put herself between the gunman and the children and that's when she was tragically shot and killed,' Mr Wiltsie said.

'I'm proud that Vicki had the instincts to protect her kids from harm. In our eyes she's a hero.'

Ms Soto died alongside colleagues Dawn Hochsprung, 47, the school principal, and Mary Sherlach, 56, school psychologist. Mrs Sherlach had worked at Sandy Hook for 18 years and was a year from retirement.

A friend of Ms Soto wrote online: 'I talked to Vicki on Tuesday and she told me that she loved her 16 angels and never wanted to let them go.

'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.'

There was also praise for teachers Kaitlin Roig and Maryrose Kristopik, who both survived uninjured.

Ms Kristopik, 50, huddled in a storage room with 15 children while outside the gunman could be heard screaming: 'Let me in!'

The students had been in a music lesson watching The Nutcracker on TV when the gunshots started.

Victim: Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung, 47

Victim: Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung, 47

The group hid in the closet  until police arrived to lead them to safety.

Ms Roig endured a similarly horrifying ordeal. She had been teaching 15 children when the classroom windows shattered. The 24-year-old saved their lives by rushing them into a bathroom.

She said: 'I put one of my students on top of the toilet. I was telling them, it's going to be OK, you're going to be all right.

'I told them to be absolutely quiet because I was just so afraid if he did come in he would hear us and start shooting the door.

'I said there are bad guys out there now. We need to wait for the good guys.

'The kids were being so  good. They asked, “Can we go  see if anyone is out there? I  just want Christmas, I don't want to die, I just want to have Christmas.”

'I said, “You're going to have Christmas and Hanukkah.” I tried to be positive. If they started crying I would take their face and say it's going to be OK.

'One of my students was saying, “I know karate, so it's OK.”

'I said, “We're staying here until someone comes to get us out.”

'The police came and started knocking and obviously I was completely beside myself. I said, “I don't believe you. You need to put your badges under the door.” So they put their badges under the door.'

The other teacher killed by Lanza was identified last night as 30-year-old Lauren Rousseau.

She had been given a full time post at Sandy Hook this autumn after working there for several years as a substitute teacher.

Her grieving father Gilles Rousseau said she loved the job. 'She was like a kid in many ways. That's why she liked working with kids so much,' he added.

 

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