(NEW YORK) — When Carlos Soto saw a state police officer walking toward him with his head down, on that fateful day of Dec. 14, 2012, after a school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, he “already knew that she was gone.”
Soto’s daughter, Victoria Soto, a first-grade teacher at Sandy Hook, died in the deadly school rampage that killed six adults and 20 children.
“That day was the hardest day of my life,” he told ABC News’ “Start Here” host Brad Mielke.
Soto shared his grief as a father two days after a gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 children and two adults.
The mass shootings in Uvalde and Newtown, separated by less than a decade, are among the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.
“Today we send our kids to school and we don’t know if they’ll be safe,” said Soto.
Soto and his family have since gone on to create a scholarship fund in honor of Victoria, organize an annual 5K for teachers in her memory, and, in 2014, they joined the lawsuit against gun manufacturer Remington Arms, who manufactured the Bushmaster AR-15 that was used in the Sandy Hook shooting, settled with the families this year for $73 million.
Soto also has made a point to speak with other parents who have lost children to school shootings. He told ABC News’ Mielke that parents ask, “Carlos, how can you do it?”
“My daughter is gone,” he said, “but she is always by my heart telling me what to say and what to do. She passed the torch to me.”
It doesn’t get easier, he said.
“The best way is to talk about it. Don’t keep it inside of you” he said, “because it will eat you up. You have to keep going forward.”
Soto became impassioned when the conversation turned to the political influence of gun manufacturers who lobby the government to prevent gun control legislation.
“The only way it’s gonna be changed,” he said, “is if we take our vote and remove these people out of there.”
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