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Bells toll across country for Newtown shooting victims

By Jason Hanna, CNN
updated 2:31 PM EST, Fri December 21, 2012
Candles burn next to a lighted tree at a makeshift shrine in Newtown, Connecticut, commemorating the victims of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. Candles burn next to a lighted tree at a makeshift shrine in Newtown, Connecticut, commemorating the victims of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The nation observes a moment of silence, and church bells ring in many states
  • President, first lady are "holding you and your families in our hearts," Michelle Obama writes
  • Observances mark a week since shooting that killed 20 children, 7 women and gunman

(CNN) -- For the people of Newtown and for people across the country, 9:30 a.m. was a time to stop, listen and remember.

Bells rang in the Connecticut town and in churches and other buildings in multiple states Friday morning to remember the 20 children and six women who were gunned down at Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School at that hour a week ago.

Standing in rain -- some holding umbrellas and others letting the water wash over their bowed heads -- people in Newtown gathered outside various locations and paused as multiple churches rang their bells, once for each victim.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman stood with others under the awning of Newtown's Edmond Town Hall, listening to bells of a nearby church. People also paused elsewhere in town -- under a tent that covered the numerous flowers and stuffed animals left as a memorial -- and outside various churches.

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Some closed their eyes. Some put hands on their hearts. All stood nearly still as the bells rang.

At least one Newtown church rang its bells 28 times, marking the deaths of the school's 26 victims; the gunman's mother, who was slain before the shooter went to the school; and the gunman himself, who authorities say committed suicide after the shootings.

Three pastors at that church, Newtown United Methodist, took turns ringing the bell.

In the state Capitol building in Hartford, a bell was rung for each of the school's 26 victims after their names were read. "Amazing Grace" was sung afterward.

Bells were rung at the National Cathedral in Washington and the Cathedral of Saint Mary in Miami. Traders at the New York Stock Exchange paused silently for one minute before the opening bell.

Earlier, in a letter to other governors across the country, Malloy noted how the shooting in his state has resonated nationwide.

"Mourning this tragedy has extended beyond Newtown, beyond the borders of Connecticut, and has spread across the nation and the world," he said. "On behalf of the State of Connecticut, we appreciate the letters and calls of support that have been delivered to our state and to the family members during their hour of need."

At least 29 states declared a moment of silence for Friday morning, with flags flying at half-staff. People mourned on the Internet, as well: Some websites went dark at the urging of Silicon Valley venture capitalist Ron Conway, who came up with the idea at a Christmas party attended by Gabby Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who was wounded in a 2011 shooting that killed six.

Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma suggested that residents wear green, Sandy Hook's school color. In Alaska, the Capitol's bell was scheduled to ring at 9:30 a.m. local time. The bell is a full-scale replica of the Liberty Bell.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Texas Gov. Rick Perry called for residents of their states to pause to reflect one week after the shooting rampage. Perry also asked that churches ring their bells 26 times in honor of the victims at the school.

In an open letter to the people of Newtown in Friday's Hartford Courant, first lady Michelle Obama wrote that she and President Barack Obama are "holding you and your families in our hearts."

"As a mother of two young daughters, my heart aches for you and your families. Like so many Americans, I wish there were something -- anything -- I could do or say to ease your anguish," Michelle Obama wrote.

Although she "cannot begin to imagine the depths of your grief," she paid tribute to "the countless acts of courage, kindness and love here in Newtown and across America."

The states that observed a moment of silence are Alaska, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Obama ordered flags to half-staff last Friday after the shooting. Flags are also flying at half-staff this Friday.

In Danbury, Connecticut, about 12 miles west of Newtown, the congregation of United Methodist Church of Danbury gathered to pray, CNN affiliate WFSB reported.

"So many things we don't have control over," the Rev. Karen Karpow told WFSB. "This is one of those things, and something like this points out we have way less control over things than we think we do."

"We will be remembering, imagining, praying. It's going to be hard," she added.

Open Story: Tributes for Newtown

Funerals for five victims were scheduled for Friday: school psychologist Mary Sherlach, 56; Rachel D'Avino, 29; Grace McDonnell, 7; Olivia Engel, 6; and Dylan Hockley, 6.

More than 2,200 miles west of Newtown, in Ogden, Utah, the hometown of shooting victim Emilie Parker was festooned Thursday with pink ribbons as her parents brought her body back for burial.

"This sucks. There's no reason for us to be here tonight," her father, Robbie Parker, told friends and well-wishers at a memorial service Thursday night. "And I'm so thankful for everybody that's here."

His voice trailed off as he struggled for composure. Seeing the pink -- his daughter's favorite color -- made him and his wife, Alissa, "feel like we were getting a big hug from everybody."

A funeral for Emilie Parker is scheduled for Saturday in Ogden.

Funerals also are scheduled Saturday in Connecticut for Ana Marquez-Greene, 6, and Josephine Gay, 7.

Three 6-year-olds were among those buried Thursday: Allison Wyatt, who loved to draw and wanted to be an artist; Benjamin Wheeler, who loved the Beatles; and red-haired Catherine Hubbard, who loved animals.

Also buried Thursday, at an undisclosed location, was Nancy Lanza, the shooter's mother, said Donald Briggs, a friend of the family who grew up with her in Kingston, New Hampshire.

Plans had not been finalized for the burial of the gunman, her son Adam.

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CNN's Jason Carroll contributed to this report.

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