Petition asks for a street named for Victoria Soto, a teacher slain at Sandy Hook
Updated 10:18 pm, Tuesday, December 25, 2012
STRATFORD -- If Chris Barbee and nearly 2,300 other petition signers have their way, North Parade will be renamed Victoria Soto Way.
"It's an effort to do something positive," said Barbee, who like Soto graduated from Stratford High.
His petition, on Change.org and linked to Facebook, asks the Stratford Town Council to change the name of the street that runs between Stratford High School and Town Hall after Soto, 27, a teacher killed in the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Barbee said the effort grew out of desire to "ensure her actions will never be forgotten."
He didn't expect the effort to snowball the way it has.
The petition has garnered signatures from all over.
"Too often, the true heroes are overlooked," wrote Walt DeSoi, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., in signing the petition.
"We should never forget the bravery she showed in the face of evil," wrote Jackie Manhart, of Yorktown Va.
"The only thing that makes this at all possible to cope with is hearing about the heroic stories like that of Vicki Soto," said David Solano of Norwalk, who said the Newtown tragedy has severely damaged the entire country mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Karla Baldwin, walking the street into Town Hall recently, agreed. Baldwin went to school with Soto's sister. She thinks renaming North Parade would help students focus on the heroes from the schoolhouse.
According to reports, Soto hid as many of her students as possible in her classroom, saving a number of them.
Fred Knapp, 19, a cousin, said renaming North Parade to Victoria Soto Way would honor her sacrifice.
"The main thing Vicki's immediate family wanted to do, as I'm sure every family wanted to do, was tell her story so she wasn't just a statistic or another victim," said Knapp. "They wanted to make sure people saw that she was a genuinely loving and caring person. Renaming the street of her alma mater after her would be a perfect tribute to who she was and where she came from."
Soto graduated from Stratford High in 2003. Members of her class have started a scholarship fund in her name. They are also composing a book, called "Letters to Vicki."
Stephen Raguskus, from Stratford's Class of 1978, came up with the idea for the street name change and teamed up with Barbee, from the Class of 1996, to start the online petition. They aren't even sure a petition is necessary to get the street name changed. Last spring, the town renamed a street across from Town Hall in honor of Fire Lt. Thomas McCabe, a fallen firefighter. In that case, all it took was a resolution and vote by city council.
Mayor John Harkins, through his office, had no comment Monday, citing respect for the family.
It is also uncertain what sentimental value North Parade holds. The name has been around since the ground where the school and town hall now sit was a military training area during colonial times. The school's nickname used to be the North Paraders; now it's the Red Devils.
Better, said Michael Gray of Stratford, to have the street named after Soto, who in his opinion, was a hero.
"They name streets after heroes," he said.