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Bells toll for victims one week after shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Published: Friday, Dec. 21 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

Officials including Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy observe a moment of silence on the steps of Edmond Town Hall while bells ring 26 times in Newtown, Conn., Friday, Dec. 21, 2012.   The chiming of bells reverberated throughout Newtown, commemorating one week since the crackle of gunfire in a schoolhouse killed 20 children and six adults in a massacre that has shaken the community and the nation. (Associated Press) Officials including Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy observe a moment of silence on the steps of Edmond Town Hall while bells ring 26 times in Newtown, Conn., Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. The chiming of bells reverberated throughout Newtown, commemorating one week since the crackle of gunfire in a schoolhouse killed 20 children and six adults in a massacre that has shaken the community and the nation. (Associated Press)

NEWTOWN, Conn. — The chiming of bells reverberated throughout Newtown on Friday, commemorating one week since the crackle of gunfire in a schoolhouse killed 20 children and six adults in a massacre that has shaken the community — and the nation — to its core.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy gathered with other officials in rain and wind on the steps of the Edmond Town Hall as the bell rang 26 times in memory of each life lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The gunman also killed his mother before the massacre, and himself afterward.

Officials didn't make any formal remark, and similar commemorations took place throughout the country.

Though the massacre does not rank as the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history — that happened at Virginia Tech — the tender age of the victims and the absence of any apparent motive has struck at Americans' hearts and minds. The gunman used a military-style assault rifle loaded with ammunition intended to inflict maximum damage, officials have said.

People stand in line to enter a funeral home for calling hours for Olivia Engel in Newtown, Conn., Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. Engel, 6, was killed when Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, and opened fire, killing 26 people, including 20 children, before killing himself. (Associated Press) People stand in line to enter a funeral home for calling hours for Olivia Engel in Newtown, Conn., Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. Engel, 6, was killed when Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, and opened fire, killing 26 people, including 20 children, before killing himself. (Associated Press)

The White House said President Barack Obama privately observed the moment of silence.

Just a week after the attack on the first grade students and members of the school's staff, gun control has taken a front burner in Congress, where previous mass shootings produced only minimal legislative reaction. Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that the Obama administration would push to tighten gun laws.

The National Rifle Association, at its first public event since the shootings, called Friday for armed police officers to be posted in American school to stop the next killer "waiting in the wings."

Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the nation's largest gun-rights lobby with 4.3 million members, said at the Washington news conference that, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

A photograph of Nancy Lanza, bottom left, one of the 27 people allegedly killed by Adam Lanza in the Sandy Hook village of Newtown, Conn., last week, appears on a board at a makeshift memorial, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012.  (Associated Press) A photograph of Nancy Lanza, bottom left, one of the 27 people allegedly killed by Adam Lanza in the Sandy Hook village of Newtown, Conn., last week, appears on a board at a makeshift memorial, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. (Associated Press)

He blamed video games, movies and music videos for exposing children to a violent culture.

Though security was tight, the briefing was interrupted twice by people holding up signs that blamed the NRA for killing children. The protesters were taken from the room.

Newtown schools superintendent Janet Robinson told The Associated Press on Friday that consolidating the first grade classes at Sandy Hook Elementary School is part of the process of preparing for the students' return Jan. 3 to a refurbished middle school in Monroe. She said most of the classes will remain intact, except the first grade where 20 students were killed. She said one of the three classes has a single remaining student.

Traffic stopped in the streets outside the town hall in Newtown early Friday as bells rang out to honor the dead.

Bell ringer Tony Furnivall ring one of twelve bells in the belfry of Trinity Wall Street Church, on Friday, Dec. 21, 2012 in New York,  joining a nation-wide toll for a moment of silence to mourn the 20 children and six adult victims killed last week at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Ct. (Associated Press) Bell ringer Tony Furnivall ring one of twelve bells in the belfry of Trinity Wall Street Church, on Friday, Dec. 21, 2012 in New York, joining a nation-wide toll for a moment of silence to mourn the 20 children and six adult victims killed last week at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Ct. (Associated Press)

Malloy, taking deep breaths with his hands folded in front of him, was joined by the Newtown superintendent of schools, lawmakers and other officials as bells rang out at the nearby Trinity Episcopal Church.

Firefighters bowed their heads around a memorial filled with teddy bears, other stuffed animals and a New York Giants pillow. Some hugged and onlookers shook their hands afterward.

"When I heard the 26 bells ring it just melted my soul," said Kerrie Glassman, of Sandy Hook, who said she knew seven of the victims. "It's just overwhelming. You just can't believe this happened in our town."

Among those who gathered in Newtown was a group of 13 survivors of the 2005 school shooting on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota. The group drove nearly 1,500 miles to support and comfort the families and survivors. They brought gifts intended to bring a message of resilience and hope, including a plaque that survivors of the 1999 Columbine shooting gave to them after their experience.

Balloons in the shape of numbers 2 and 6 fly from a makeshift memorial as a man walks by in the Sandy Hook village of Newtown, Conn., the site of a shooting massacre last week, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012.  (Associated Press) Balloons in the shape of numbers 2 and 6 fly from a makeshift memorial as a man walks by in the Sandy Hook village of Newtown, Conn., the site of a shooting massacre last week, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. (Associated Press)

"This is just something we had to do," said Ashley Lejeunesse, 23, who was also in the Red Lake classroom.

The chiming of bells reverberated throughout the nation, and there were observances around the world.

In Washington, religious leaders from a broad range of faiths gathered at Washington National Cathedral to call for their congregations to lobby Congress to enact gun control and mental health reforms to address pervasive gun violence. In a garden beside the National Cathedral, they paused to listen as a funeral bell tolled.

In New York City, bells at the historic Trinity Church near the World Trade Center tolled 28 times. In Massachusetts, bells in churches around the state, including Boston's historic Old North Church, rang in honor of those killed in the attack. A moment of silence was observed throughout Colorado, and bells rang out in Denver.

In the west African nation of Liberia, 20 children from a school sponsored by the Newtown Rotary Club gathered at the U.S. Embassy to give their condolences. Each child from the Caroline Miller School in Monrovia placed a flower on a poster bearing the name of a victim of the shooting.

Fire rescue officials pause for a moment of silence at a makeshift memorial near the main road that leads into Sandy Hook Elementary School during a memorial at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, in Newtown, Conn. The chiming of bells reverberated throughout Newtown, commemorating one week since the crackle of gunfire in a schoolhouse killed 20 children and six adults in a massacre that has shaken the community and the nation. (Associated Press) Fire rescue officials pause for a moment of silence at a makeshift memorial near the main road that leads into Sandy Hook Elementary School during a memorial at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, in Newtown, Conn. The chiming of bells reverberated throughout Newtown, commemorating one week since the crackle of gunfire in a schoolhouse killed 20 children and six adults in a massacre that has shaken the community and the nation. (Associated Press)

When the bells tolled to honor the victims of last week's shooting rampage, they did so 26 times, for each child and staff member killed.

There is rarely a mention by residents of the first person police said Adam Lanza killed that morning: his mother, Nancy, who was shot in the head four times while she lay in bed.

A private funeral was held Thursday in New Hampshire for Nancy Lanza, according to the police chief in Kingston, N.H., where her funeral was held. About 25 family members attended.

The Newtown area weathered more funerals Friday, with five planned.

A standing room-only crowd filled the St. Stephen Roman Catholic Church in Trumbull for the funeral of Mary Sherlach. The school psychologist who rushed toward the gunman during the shooting was remembered as a caring professional, a fan of the Miami Dolphins and a woman who ultimately put the lives of others ahead of her own.

A letter intended for Nancy Lanza, one of the 27 people allegedly killed by Adam Lanza in the Sandy Hook village of Newtown, Conn., last week, is propped up on a wooden sign at a makeshift memorial, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. (Associated Press) A letter intended for Nancy Lanza, one of the 27 people allegedly killed by Adam Lanza in the Sandy Hook village of Newtown, Conn., last week, is propped up on a wooden sign at a makeshift memorial, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. (Associated Press)

Investigators have said that Nancy Lanza, a gun enthusiast, visited shooting ranges several times and that her son also visited an area range.

Authorities say Adam Lanza shot his mother at their home and then took her car and some of her guns to the school, where he broke in and opened fire. A Connecticut official said Nancy Lanza was shot four times in the head with a .22-caliber rifle.

Adam Lanza was wearing all black, with an olive-drab utility vest, during the school attack. Investigators have found no letters or diaries that could explain the rampage.

Friends and acquaintances have described him as intelligent, but odd and quiet.

Friends said he would stare down at the floor and not speak when she brought him into a local pizzeria. They knew that he'd switched schools more than once and that she'd tried home schooling him. But while she occasionally expressed concern about his future during evenings at the bar, she never complained.

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Michael Melia, John Christoffersen, Eileen Connelly, Susan Haigh and David Klepper in Newtown.

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