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.
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 remarks, and similar commemorations took place throughout the country.
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 at 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.
Malloy, taking deep breaths with his hands folded in front of him, was joined by Robinson, 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.
"This is just something we had to do," said Ashley Lajeunesse, 23, who was in the Red Lake classroom.
In Washington, religious leaders from a broad range of faiths gathered at the 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 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.
The Newtown area weathered more funerals Friday, with five planned.
Mourners filled St. Stephen Roman Catholic Church in Trumbull for the funeral of school psychologist Mary Sherlach.