NEWTOWN, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — For the third day this week, funerals and wakes were being held for victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
Family and friends gathered in Stratford, Conn. Wednesday morning to say goodbye to teacher Vicki Soto. The 27-year-old has been hailed as a hero for dying while trying to shield her students, some of whom managed to escape.
1010 WINS’ Al Jones reports
“She’s probably going to be remembered forever for this,” said Soto’s cousin, Robert Natos. “It’s unfortunate, but hopefully her life can stand as a monument to all of us.”
Though details of the teacher’s death remain fuzzy, Soto’s family was told by police that she was attempting to get the class into a closet when the gunman entered the room. He shot her as she dove in front of a group of kids to shield them.
“She died saving kids, so it gives meaning to her life and it gives meaning to her cause and be what you wanted a teacher to do in that situation — save my kid,” said family friend Jancee Pust-Marcone.
Cameras were not allowed inside the church, which was filled. An overflow crowd also sat out front. Friends, family, acquaintances and total strangers gathered at the site. For some, it was too much.
“I can’t go in there; I can’t — knowing that it could’ve been my daughter or my grandchildren. It’s just overwhelming,” Mary Ann Litchenberger told CBS 2’s Lou Young.
At her funeral, family friend Paul Simon sang one of Soto’s favorite songs. Mourners wore green ribbons, Soto’s favorite color and the color of Sandy Hook Elementary.
“She put those children first. That’s all she ever talked about,” said friend Andrea Crowell. “She wanted to do her best for them, to teach them something new every day.”
Soto’s mother, Donna Soto, said her daughter wanted to become a teacher since she was 3 years old.
WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond: Vicki Soto Was Found Huddled Around Her Students
“She was just the best, best person,” she said. “She loved her family more than anything. Teaching and family was her life.”
At the same time as Soto’s service, mourners gathered in Newtown for the funeral of 7-year-old Daniel Barden.
Hundreds of firefighters formed a long blue line outside St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church as bells sounded and bagpipes played. Daniel wanted to join their ranks one day, and many came from New York, where his family has relatives who are firefighters.
The gap-toothed redhead was the youngest of three children. His family described him as “always smiling, unfailingly polite, incredibly affectionate, fair and so thoughtful towards others, imaginative in play, both intelligent and articulate in conversation: in all, a constant source of laughter and joy.”
Family friend Laura Stamberg, whose husband plays in a band with Daniel’s father, Mark, said Daniel was a thoughtful boy who held doors for people and would sit with another child if he saw one sitting alone.
She said that on the morning of the shooting, Mark Barden played a game with his son and taught him a Christmas song on the piano.
“They played foosball and then he taught him the song and then he walked him to the bus and that was their last morning together,” Stamberg said.
Funeral services were also held Wednesday for students Charlotte Bacon and Caroline Previdi.
A wake was also held for popular 47-year-old principal Dawn Hochsprung. She and school psychologist Mary Sherlach rushed toward the gunman in an attempt to stop him and paid with their lives.
Please share your thoughts below…
(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)