At 9:30 am in villages, towns, and cities across the great land of America, church bells rang 26 times to pay tribute to the six teachers and 20 small children who were gunned down last week at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut by a disturbed young man named Adam Lanza. Some churches rang the bells 27 times to also remember the first victim of Lanza’s rampage: his own mother, Nancy Lanza.
After a contentious week during which advocates of gun control and dedicated supporters of the Second Amendment seemed ready to come to blows, peace finally settled for a moment on a grieving nation. Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy first suggested the memorial tribute and the idea spread rapidly to churches and houses of worship in every state of the Union.
Some churches are too small to afford bells, but they still found ways to remember the fallen children and teachers. St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Bexley, Ohio is one of the churches that paid tribute by holding a memorial fast and prayer meeting.
Susan Marie Smith, rector of the church, told NBC News why they decided to join the tribute:
“We all feel like we want to do something. We want to share the burden of our sisters and brothers in Connecticut.”
The bells rang at the exact moment when Adam Lanza began his terrible attack on Friday, December 14, 2012. They rang to remember teacher Vicki Soto, 27, who hid her frightened young students in a closet, shielded them with her body, and was later found dead slumped over her students. Six of her students managed to escape and ran to a nearby house to scream for help:
“We can’t go back to our school. Our teacher is dead. We don’t have a teacher.”
The bells rang to remember Anne Marie Murphy, 52, a Special Education teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Anne Marie was deeply devoted to her students, and she was found with her arms warped around one of her charges, Dylan Hockley. His grieving parents took a moment to praise Anne Marie for trying to protect Dylan:
“We take great comfort in knowing that Dylan was not alone when he died.”
The bells rang out to remember Lauren Rousseau, 30, who wanted to be a teacher since early childhood and had just begun her dream job at the school. Rev. Jennifer Gingras, senior pastor at Monroe Congregational Church, remembered Rousseau fondly. Each summer Lauren would volunteer to help with the church’s annual Strawberry Festival:
“We’re all just feeling so emotional. I hope everybody can just feel peace and love. In difficult times like these, love is the answer.”
Across America, people paid tribute to the victims of the Newtown Massacre. Chris Johnson, standout running back with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans wrote all 27 names on his cleats and dedicated his game to their memory. He later sent gifts to the family of Grace McDonnell after speaking with her parents on the phone. Johnson remembered the teachers and students who died at the School and he took a moment to remember Nancy Lanza, who died in her bed.
“(It was) just something to try to give back and show tribute to those families and how much they hurt. It just shows you how fortunate it is for us to come out here and play on Sunday and Monday. (Johnson was) thinking about those kids all week.”
The bells rang out across America today. Let this be a first step in reuniting our nation to heal and rebuild. Let us close the divide that separates us and open our hearts to our neighbors. May you find peace and may all your dreams come true.
Let each of us take a moment to remember every one of the good people who lost their lives in this heartbreaking tragedy.
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- Josephine Gay 12/11/05
- Ana Marquez-Greene 4/4/06
- Dylan Hockley 3/8/06
- Dawn Hocksprung 6/28/65
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- Catherine Hubbard 6/8/06
- Chase Kowalski 10/31/05
- Nancy Lanza 9/6/60
- Jesse Lewis 6/30/06
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- Grace McDonnell 11/04/05
- Anne Marie Murphy 7/25/60
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- Jessica Rekos 5/10/06
- Avielle Richman 10/17/06
- Lauren Rousseau 6/82
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- Victoria Soto 11/04/85
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