Everyday Heroism – A Silver Lining in Newtown

As is the case with tragedies like it, inspirational anecdotes are emerging out of yesterday’s shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.

First, there are reports of the brave sacrifice made by first grade teacher Victoria Soto, 27.

According to The Telegraph “Miss Soto…was trying to shield her students and usher them into a closet when she came face-to-face with the gunman.”

Miss Soto’s cousin, Jim Wiltsie, said: “She put herself between the gunman and the children and that’s when she was tragically shot and killed.

“I’m just proud that Vicki had the instincts to protect her kids from harm. It brings peace to know that Vicki was doing what she loved, protecting the children and in our eyes she’s a hero,” he added.

The story was corroborated by one of Soto’s friend’s on her Tumblr account:

“Today 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. Words can not express how heartbreaking and tragic this is. I will miss you dearly.”

Then there were the school’s principal, Dawn Hochsprung, 47, and psychiatrist Mary Sherlach, 56, who, reportedly, did not hesitate to leave a meeting to confront alleged killer Adam Lanza when he opened fire.

The AP reported:

“Hochsprung and the psychologist leaped out of their seats and ran out of the room, [School therapist Diane] Day recalled. “They didn’t think twice about confronting or seeing what was going on,” she said. Hochsprung was killed, and the psychologist was believed to have been killed as well.”

Another report, citing town officials, stated that Hochsprung lunged at Lanza.

That same report also told of an unnamed custodian who ran through the halls warning teachers and students to hide. It is not known whether or not he survived the attack.

In addition to offering hope in a time of overwhelming despair, these tales illustrate how under appreciated workers are in this country. Industries one wouldn’t normally consider dangerous often see employees put in harm’s way – especially service industry workers. There is no shortage of videos of fast food employees fending off armed robbers, for example. The likes of Soto, Hochsprung, Sherlach, and the unnamed custodian often go above and beyond their pay grade to defy violent criminals. Many pay with their lives. According to the Department of Labor, there were 506 workplace homicides in 2010. While that annual sum has dropped dramatically over the past two decades or so, it is jarring to think that every day roughly two workers in this country will never return home after punching in. And in the case of many low wage service industry workers, they’re dying defending a job that isn’t even paying them a living wage.

Samuel Knight

Samuel Knight is a freelance journalist living in DC and a former intern at the Washington Monthly.