By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN
NEWTOWN, Conn. — Bells tolled 26 times to honor the children and educators killed one year ago in a shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School as local churches hosted memorial services and the country marked the anniversary with events including a White House moment of silence.
With snow falling and homes decorated with Christmas lights, Newtown looked every bit the classic New England town, with a coffee shop and general store doing steady business.
But reminders of the private grief were everywhere.
Ryan Knaggs, a chef who lives in Newtown, said as the bells tolled he thought of two young victims who played soccer with his 7-year-old daughter.
“The echo of the bells, knowing some of the children personally, you feel the exactitude with each bell … the exactitude of the loss and the grief,” Knaggs said.
The bells rang 26 times at St. Rose of Lima church in Newtown beginning at 9:30 a.m. — the moment the gunman shot his way into the school on Dec. 14, 2012 — and names of the victims were read over a loudspeaker. Connecticut’s governor had asked for bells to ring across Connecticut and directed that flags be lowered to half-staff.
In Washington, the president and first lady Michelle Obama lit 26 votive candles set up on a table in the White House Map Room — one each for the 20 children and six educators.
In his weekly radio address, released hours earlier, Obama said the nation hasn’t done enough to make its communities safer by keeping dangerous people from getting guns and healing troubled minds.
“We have to do more to keep dangerous people from getting their hands on a gun so easily. We have to do more to heal troubled minds. We have to do everything we can to protect our children from harm and make them feel loved, and valued, and cared for,” Obama said.