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Bells toll in Newtown, Connecticut

Bells tolled 26 times to honour the children and educators killed one year ago in a shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School as local churches held 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.

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.

n an effort to keep the anniversary focused on quiet reflection, First Selectman E. Patricia Llodra announced in October that Newtown would not host any formal remembrance events. The news media were asked to keep their distance, and "No Media" signs went up around town as they did in the weeks after the tragedy.

Some news organizations stayed away Saturday from Newtown. A reporter and photographer for The Associated Press, whose reports are available to media worldwide, were present in the community, and some townspeople were willing to share their thoughts.

Andrew Snow, a mechanic who was drinking coffee at the general store with a friend, said it was an especially difficult day.

"You kind of hope the town can put it behind without actually forgetting about the victims," said Snow, who grew up in Newtown and is moving back from nearby Southbury to support the community. "But it's not easy to do. I think about it every day."

The gunman, Adam Lanza, shot and killed his mother inside their Newtown home before driving to the school and took his own life as police arrived.

The Canadian Press

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