Where Did a First Grade Teacher Get the Strength to Perform Her Extraordinary Act of Bravery?

By Rabbi Shraga Simmons. When a crazed gunman opened fire inside a Connecticut elementary school – murdering 26 children and adults – first grade teacher Vicki Soto responded with an astonishingly selfless act.

Upon hearing the first rounds of gunfire in an adjacent classroom, the 27-year-old teacher went into lockdown mode, quickly ushering her students into a closet. Then suddenly, as she came face to face with the gunman and the bullets flew, she used her body to shield the children.

Vicki Soto was found dead, huddled over her students, protecting them.

We all mourn this unspeakable tragedy.

Yet where did this young woman get the strength and conviction to perform such an extraordinary act of bravery?

In the animal world, this devotion is found to some degree as a motherly instinct. The bear will fiercely protect her cubs, just as a mother is intensely devoted to her children. But how far does it go? Can it even override the most basic instinct for self-preservation?

A parent’s greatest wish is for her children to grow, to see them flourish – physically, emotionally and spiritually. With determination and focus, a parent can attain a level of absolute devotion – even at the expense of her own welfare.

What makes Vicki Soto’s actions so remarkable is how she developed that same degree of self-sacrifice for children not biologically your own.

She lived with the reality of a profound truth: A teacher is like a parent, charged with nurturing a child’s growth, helping to transform their physical lives into something greater.

“Vicki’s life dream was to be a teacher. It’s what she loved to do,” said her cousin, James Wiltsie. This young woman was willing to give up her entire worldly existence, for the higher meaning of caring for these children.

Lifelong Legacy

Deep down, we all want to accomplish great things. We all want to give generously and truly care for others. We all want to use our potential.

A friend recently told me that he’s been thinking about his “legacy.” Now in his mid-50s, he is haunted by one overriding question that he cannot ignore: How will I truly impact this world?

I told him to sit down and figure out what he’s willing to die for. Maybe even read some obituaries, to give perspective on the greater meaning of life.

I told him: Once you’ve found a cause so meaningful that you’d forfeit your life for, that leads to the more important and obvious corollary: If you are willing to die for something, then that is the highest goal for how you should be living.

There is something deep in the psyche of every human being: Being good is so important that we’re even willing to die for it. Yet we too often fall short of these higher objectives – because we get distracted.

Vicki Soto understood that when you live with full focus and devotion, you attain unparalleled power.

The great tragedy is that this remarkable young woman had so much more to give.

Let us ensure that her death is not in vain.

Let’s make a plan to discover our ultimate pur­pose and then implement it into day-to-day life. Let’s take it one step at a time, so not to become overwhelmed. Let’s keep our eye on the ball and not get distracted.

Vicki Soto’s great act of devotion should inspire us to take 10 minutes today and ponder: “What am I living for?”

Finding the answer is a big project. But there’s no better use of our time and energy. Because if we don’t know what higher purpose we’re pursuing, then we’re living like zombies, just going through the motions.

Vicki Soto was up to the challenge. The media reported that she loved her students so much that she referred to them as her “angels.” In reaching the ultimate level of devotion and saving their lives, Vicki Soto reached beyond the angels. Aish.

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25 COMMENTS

  1. QUOTE “Just because this woman is a hero doesn’t mean it is ok to start posting photos of women.”
    are you for real? SHE IS A REAL HERO and you have a problem posting her photo W H A T ? ? ?

  2. the only photo that should not be posted is that of the killer, we dont need to see his face and give him any publicty, we should always post the heroes pictures

  3. to number 3 if you have a problem with a picture of a lady then get off the computer and never go out of your house again because you might just see a lady.

  4. Hey TZNIUS PLEASE, you have a problem with the posting of a woman’s picture?!?!?!?!…are you for real, the woman is a HERO and I can tell that you would be a COWARD and run the other way…get over the whole posting of a woman’s picture..WE ARE ALL EQUAL!!!..I feel bad for your wife!

  5. OMG to #3 what is wrong with you??? you have an issue with a picture of a women that is a real hero??! get off the internet or smartphone if you dont want to see pics of women. SHAME ON YOU!!!!!!!!!!

  6. #3 is 100% correct. If you would be honest with yourself you would admit he/she is correct. Easy to argue with an unsigned comment. You really think it’s mutar to look at her? Yes or no? Very sad. And not only one person is against #3 many, very sad and ridiculous.

  7. Thank you Rabbi for such a beautiful editorial. I truly enjoyed reading it. As for #3, I’m sorry you feel that way, because everyone, no matter what gender, race creed or color should see the face of a true inspirational hero. In many peoples’ thoughts and imaginations, a hero probably looks like the police officer, firefighter, EMT, or cape wearing super hero, but in fact , true heroes are just your everyday person, passing you by on the street, never even noticing they’re there. They are ordinary people, who do extraordinary things.

  8. please dont comment on #3,he wants attention,im pretty sure hes trying to just get a rise out of people,but TLS,i would appreacite if you remove his commet since its inappropriate!

  9. #3 this stuff kills me,people dont care much about loshon hora,but to see a face of a woman u go retarted….get a hold of yourself

  10. Very Very Moving and a Unbelievable lesson to all parents and to the world !!!!!!!!!!!! : ””” (
    In this day and Age there is not so many like Viki , a teacher like this is absolutley a TRUE TEACHER !!!!!!!!!

  11. A true Hero. If we could only see such people.

    I am aghast at the stupidity of some posters. Aside from that their view is misguided, don’t they understand the Chilul HaShem caused by saying things in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  12. A true and kind hearted and compassionate person. She really gave her life to her students. the world would be a better place if more people acted in this kindly herioc manner.

  13. #3, she is not alive anymore. please think before you comment and realize what you are saying. Understand the concept of tznius and realize how foolish you sound.

Comments are closed.