Another loved princess tea parties, Justin Bieber and trips to New
York. Still another, who rode horses, was hoping for a cowgirl hat
and boots for Christmas.
One year later, the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in
Newtown, Connecticut, still evokes raw emotion and sadness. On
Saturday, a day after another school shooting, this time at a
Colorado high school where one student was wounded, the United
States paused to remember the tragedy and revisit the contentious
issue of guns in America.
On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza, 20, shot his way into the school
he had once attended and murdered 20 first-graders, all aged 6 and
7, and six adults. Before heading to the school, Lanza killed his
mother, who had legally purchased the guns he used that day.
Newtown officials said the town wanted to be left alone on the
anniversary. Some of the victims' families have encouraged those
moved by the shooting to mark the day by performing an act of
kindness in their own communities.
At the White House, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle
Obama observed a moment of silence after lighting 26 candles to
honor those lost at the school.
In Newtown, at the Washington National Cathedral in the nation's
capital and elsewhere around the country, bells tolled in
remembrance of those who died.
Some of the bells were rung by advocates of stricter gun control who
see Newtown as a rallying call for action and refuse to let up
despite setbacks. The group Mayors Against Illegal Guns says there
have been 28 school shootings since Newtown.
A fierce snow storm blew through Newtown, where a flag was flown at
half-mast on Main Street. There was also a heavy police presence,
including near the site of the recently demolished school.
Wreaths of fresh flowers were placed near the spot where a large
sign once stood announcing the Sandy Hook school. The area has been
a popular location for people to leave flowers, stuffed animals and
other tokens of remembrance.
On a frozen pond near the town center, a group of young skaters,
some wearing "We are Newtown" sweatshirts, played a game of hockey.
After a goal, one player threw down his hockey stick and shouted:
"O.K. guys, that's for Sandy Hook." Then the game continued.
"NO GUIDEBOOK" FOR RECOVERY
On that deadly Friday last year, teachers were in the midst of their
morning meetings or starting the day's first lesson when gunfire was
heard in the hallways and over the intercom system.
Eleven minutes after blasting his way in, Lanza ended his rampage
with suicide. The aftershocks live on.
[to top of second column]
"There's no guidebook for this, not at all," said Kaitlin
Roig-DeBellis, a first-grade teacher who survived the attack by
hiding with her students in a tiny bathroom adjacent to a room where
other children and adults lost their lives.
For months after the shooting, Roig-DeBellis said she struggled to
understand why it had happened and why she was still alive.
"For me, I have moved forward. But I will never move on," she said.
Roig-DeBellis, and many of the families who lost loved ones on that
day, plan to be out of town for the anniversary.
In Newtown, about 70 miles northeast of New York City, officials
vowed to enforce a sense of normalcy as this Connecticut town of
about 28,000 began a day of quiet, if still anguished, reflection.
"The community needs time to be alone and to reflect on our past
year in personal ways, without a camera or a microphone," First
Selectman Pat Llodra told a news conference this week.
The group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America has announced
50 events, including a "communal bell-ringing," as a symbol of their
resolve not to let up in advocating for change they believe will
prevent gun violence in America.
About 120 protesters calling for new gun control legislation braved
freezing rain to attended a rally outside the Virginia headquarters
of the National Rifle Association.
"We're not going away," said Joanna Simon, a founding member of the
Reston-Herndon Alliance to End Gun Violence, organizers of the
protest."We're coming back every month until we pass some meaningful
legislation and get it funded."
A representative from the NRA, which opposes new gun control
measures as unfair and onerous for responsible gun owners, did not
respond to a request for comment. The NRA has called for better
school security and the presence of armed guards.
After the Newtown tragedy, Connecticut passed several new gun
control and mental health measures, but a similar effort pushed by
President Barack Obama failed in the U.S. Senate.
(Reporting by Edith Honan; additional reporting by Richard Weizel in
Newtown, Victoria Cavaliere in New York, Lacey Johnson in Virginia
and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; editing by Daniel Trotta, Doina
Chiacu and Gunna Dickson)
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