(Photo: REUTERS/Eric Thayer)
Church bells are tolling across the U.S. this morning in remembrance of the victims of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting last Friday, with religious leaders calling on people to pause and reflect on the tragedy.
"Bells in churches historically have a variety of functions. They are announcements, they are a call to prayer, they are a memorial and they are a call to action," the Rev. Richard Burnett, rector at Trinity Episcopal Church Downtown in Columbus, Ohio, told The Columbus Dispatch. "I think all of those things at one level or another can speak to people in our community a week after the tragedy of the massacre."
When 20-year-old gunman Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown last Friday morning, he had already killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, at their nearby home. He then proceeded to shoot down 20 children, the school's principal an five other employees before turning the gun on himself, in the deadliest school shooting America has experienced since the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech.
"We are standing in solidarity with those who weep and grieve," the Rev. Virginia Lohmann Bauman of St. John's Evangelical Protestant Church added. "Our bells also ring because the resurrection is real for us and death is not the end. We do believe in eternal life, and these children are in heaven with God and with Jesus."
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy has called for a moment of silence in remembrance of the victims, which other governors across the country have been quick to agree to. Some churches, like the ones in Ohio, are ringing the bell 26 times in observance of the victims shot dead at the school, while others, like some in Dallas, Texas, are ringing 28 times and include the gunman and his mother in the count, Fox News noted.
"These kinds of shootings do seem to suggest there is something amiss and I think this Christmas season, God is working to address that," said the Rev. John White of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in West Virginia, whose church is also ringing the bells, The Register-Herald reported. "Through Christ, we can find a way forward. We have to commit to that."
"We'll include them (the victims) in our prayers, remembering the people who have died," Rabbi Jim Cohn of Temple B'nai Israel added.
The rabbi said that the tragic incident was not something new to the human race, and murders have been happening ever since Cain slew his brother Abel in the Bible.
"I think this kind of thing has been around for as long as we've been a species. It's a constant effort to overcome it," said Cohn.
Various websites also joined in a nationwide moment of silence earlier this morning, with Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, television host Ryan Seacrest and singer Britney Spears leading the call for people to pause for a moment of reflection, according to AFP.
"Please join in a national moment of silence in honor of the Sandy Hook victims called for by Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy," Twitter said. "In the coming weeks and months, we must come together around common-sense solutions that will prevent the gun violence that has become all too frequent in communities across the country."
Photo Gallery: Victims of the Newtown, Conn., School Shootings
The children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings were: Charlotte Bacon, 6; Daniel Barden, 7; Olivia Engel, 6; Josephine Gay, 7; Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6; Dylan Hockley, 6; Madeleine F. Hsu, 6; Catherine V. Hubbard, 6; Chase Kowalski, 7; Jesse Lewis, 6; James Mattioli, 6; Grace McDonnell, 7; Emilie Parker, 6; Jack Pinto, 6; Noah Pozner, 6; Caroline Previdi, 6; Jessica Rekos, 6; Avielle Richman, 6; Benjamin Wheeler, 6; Allison N. Wyatt, 6.
The adults killed include: Mary Sherlach, 56; Victoria Soto, 27; Anne Marie Murphy, 52; Lauren Rousseau, 30; Dawn Hochsprung, 47; Rachel Davino, 29. Nancy Lanza, Adam Lanza's 52-year-old mother, was gunned down by the 20-year-old at their Newtown, Conn., home.