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 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 plan any formal remarks Friday morning, 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.
The White House said President Barack Obama privately observed the moment of silence.
Just a week after the attack, 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 plans a Friday morning news conference, its first public event since the shootings. The nation's largest gun-rights lobby with 4.3 million members has said it will offer "meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."
Traffic stopped in the streets outside the town hall in Newtown as bells rang out to honor the dead.
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.
Among those who came out to observe the ceremony was Edie Hardwick, 66, of Middlebury, Conn.
"It's such a horrific thing. Such a horrible thing. Everybody wants to do what they can," she said.
Pat Papuga, 60, came from Branford with a box full of candy canes tied with ribbons that said 'sandy hook angels,' which she dropped off at a coffee shop to give away to town's children.
"We just wanted to be here where everything happened to pay our respects. We just wanted to bring a little something to show that we care."
When the bells tolled mournfully to honor the victims of last week's shooting rampage, they did so 26 times, for each child and staff member killed.
Rarely do residents mention 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.
That makes 27.
A private funeral was held Thursday in New Hampshire for Nancy Lanza, according to Donald Briggs, the police chief in Kingston, N.H., where her funeral was held. About 25 family members attended the ceremony.