Political Animal


December 15, 2012 3:38 PM Everyday Heroism - A Silver Lining in Newtown

By Samuel Knight

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


  • MikeBoyScout on December 15, 2012 4:37 PM:

    Our communities are filled with heroes performing heroic actions every day. They are the "moochers", the "takers", the "47%". They are underpaid and under appreciated hard working heroes.
    And, all too often, they are public employees.

    Nobody ever got rich delivering the mail, clearing the snow, driving the bus, processing your ___ license, sweeping our school halls, ... teaching our children. Yet, these people are pilloried in the rightwing media and Republican dominated state houses; daily.

    "Both sides" aren't doing it. It is long past time journalists and citizens routinely stand up to know nothing bullies and demand the abuse stop.

    I don't hold out much hope we'll change, but I'll be damned if I'll sit in a room with a teevee or radio or some ill informed colleague berate others and do nothing. There are plenty of stories of heroic action we all can tell.

  • Crissa on December 15, 2012 5:45 PM:

    This is one of the reasons I as so annoyed that the news was leading with the number of children dead, with the number of adults as a separate and often buried, addition.

    These adults did what they had to do. They stood in the way. That was important. Nearly thirty people died, I don't think we should forget the total, or the parts.

  • Buford on December 15, 2012 6:46 PM:

    Lock the doors to the classrooms from the inside.
    It is the same thing was done to protect the cockpit on airliners (after 911 anyway).

    Provide a 'bulletproof' lock and a Kevlar shield in the door, and maybe in the walls.

    There is not a lot of re-engineering there.
    You could do it easily.

  • rrk1 on December 15, 2012 9:03 PM:

    As you cannot make a house so secure that a determined intruder will not get in, so you cannot turn schools into impregnable fortresses, nor should we even try. The answer is not more guns, more security, or structural armament: the answer has to be cultural change, which is far more difficult.

    Part of that cultural change has to be an end to obscenely violent action movies, video games, and the narcissistic coma that since Reagan has told us to just 'go-for-it' as if we're not part of a larger picture, but strictly on our own. There's much more that must change, but the adoration of violence that so identifies America now will ultimately destroy it as surely as any terrorist plot.

  • Paul Murphy on December 16, 2012 7:29 AM:

    How about at the countless events when we honor those who serve we include teachers, diplomats, USAID and Peace Corps workers . . .

  • Celui on December 16, 2012 9:21 AM:

    Each of these comments is, in itself, an admirable attempt to redirect the discussion to include a viable, working, active value for human effort, human community, human influence everywhere. Let's start by rejecting the concept of adversarial political ads (I won't be holding my breath on that one) but I bet that if the next election cycle has anything to learn from this one and from these senseless massacres, it is that the human community cannot any longer afford to devalue others or to extend senseless 'mock' violent depictions of other persons. What has demeaned some of these killers? I'll bet that there is a certain element: the devaluation of the other persons' humanity, of the other person's roles in the greater community, of the other person's worth to us all. Otherwise, how could a fellow human being stand before another and simply execute him or her? And, no, I'm not citing anything related to military action which has an entirely different set of expectations and unfortunate outcomes. May each of these victims be remembered for his or her worthwhile contributions to the lives of others around him, and may we all learn today that our neighbor is us.

  • EB on December 16, 2012 5:14 PM:

    You think the slaughter of these brave school staff members is a silver lining to the horror of Sandy Hook? Let's be honest here. There is no silver lining to a slaughter and we should be honest enought to say so.

  • Mimikatz on December 16, 2012 6:24 PM:

    The Times printed the names and ages of the dead. The children were all first graders, ages 6-7. The staff dead were all women. The custodian evidently survived. There were acts of heroism by public employees and they should be acknowledged as such.

  • Al on December 17, 2012 11:40 AM:

    Silver lining?!!!!!

    WTF is that supposed to mean? That good people died being good people?

    BULL@#$%, there's nothing but tragedy and horror to be learned from this. NOTHING to be gained, except maybe sparing us the trial and incarceration of this nutbag, unlike with James Holmes.

    Don't insult the relatives of the dead saying "Hey, at least your loss has a silver lining"...