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Bells toll in Newtown for school shooting victims

  • Twenty-six candles are lit by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama in honor of the Newtown shooting victims, in the Map Room of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, on the one-year anniversary of the massacre. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

NEWTOWN — 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 held memorial services Saturday and President Barack Obama observed a 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 grief were everywhere. "God bless the families," read a sign posted at one house in the green and white colors of the Sandy Hook school, and a church posted that it was "open for prayer."

Ryan Knaggs, a chef who lives in Newtown, said that as the bells tolled he thought of two young victims who played soccer with his 7-year-old daughter.

Sandy Hook School Shooting 1-Year Remembrance

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"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. Gun restrictions backed by the president in response to the shooting faced stiff opposition and ultimately stalled in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

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