When Matthew Soto was 15 years old, he sat in his high school Spanish class while his older sister, Victoria Soto, was slaughtered in her first-grade classroom in Sandy Hook Elementary School, Soto told the "March of Our Lives" rally in Washington, D.C., on Saturday.
Victoria Soto was a teacher at the elementary school on Dec. 14, 2012, when she was planning to make gingerbread houses with her students before the holiday break.
“How many of you could remember doing that?” Soto asked. “The anticipation of having to wait all week, to have to be on your best behavior, but that was cut short. They didn't get to make gingerbread houses because gunfire rang out in the hallway. Too many times has gunfire been ringing out in the hallways of schools across this country.”
Soto was among the speakers from Newtown to take the stage at the rally organized by students from Parkland, Florida, where on Valentine’s Day, 17 of their schoolmates students were shot to death by another gunman.
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The Sandy Hook shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza of Newtown, killed first his mother and then 20 first-graders and six adults at the elementary school before turning a gun on himself. Soto saved some of the children in her class, hiding them while she tried to divert Lanza.
More than 400 students, teachers and parents from Newtown marched on Saturday in Washington, D.C., Soto said, and they presented a banner to the Parkland community.
“We know your pain,” he said. “We know what you are going through and we are inspired by your fight for change. We need to use our voices because we cannot change the past, we can only fight to change and build a better future.”
Tommy Murray was a sixth-grader in Newtown, on lock-down for hours, when Lanza attacked. Among the victims was Murray’s former principal, Dawn Hochsprung.
“Since then, I have attended vigils,” said Murray, now a junior at Newtown High School. “I have protested in front of the gun lobby in our town. I have sent letters to Congress. I traveled to DC to meet with Congress to beg them to do something to stop gun violence. But they did nothing.”
A third Newtown student, Jackson Mittleman, told the Parkland survivors that they would stand by them as they healed, long after the media trucks had left.
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“We are forever connected by a tragedy that could have been prevented if our lawmakers had the courage to enact smart gun legislations,” Mittleman said.
“Mr. Trump, Congress, the Senate and all elected leaders of America: You have failed us and we have had enough of your NRA agenda,” he said. “I am calling out those who have taken money from the NRA. You better take that check to the bank and put it in your retirement because we are going to vote you out.”