NEWTOWN, Conn. - The chiming of bells reverberated throughout Newtown on Friday, commemorating one week since the crackle of gunfire in a schoolhouse killed 20 children and six adults in a massacre that has shaken the community -- and the nation -- to its core.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy gathered with other officials in rain and wind on the steps of the Edmond Town Hall as the bell rang 26 times in memory of each life lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The gunman also killed his mother before the massacre, and himself afterward.
Officials didn't plan any formal remarks Friday morning, and similar commemorations took place throughout the country.
Though the massacre does not rank as the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history -- that happened at Virginia Tech -- the tender age of the victims and the absence of any apparent motive has struck at Americans' hearts and minds. The gunman used a military-style assault rifle loaded with ammunition intended to inflict maximum damage, officials have said.
The White House said President Barack Obama privately observed the moment of silence.
Just a week after the attack, gun control has taken a front burner in Congress, where previous mass shootings produced only minimal legislative reaction. Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that the Obama administration would push to tighten gun laws.
The National Rifle Association plans a Friday morning news conference, its first public event since the shootings. The nation's largest gun-rights lobby with 4.3 million members has said it will offer "meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."
Traffic stopped in the streets outside the town hall in Newtown as bells rang out to honor the dead.
Malloy, taking deep breaths with his hands folded in front of him, was joined by the Newtown superintendent of schools, lawmakers and other officials as bells rang out at the nearby Trinity Episcopal Church.
"When I heard the 26 bells ring it just melted my soul," said Kerrie Glassman of Sandy Hook who said she knew seven of the victims. "It's just overwhelming. You just can't believe this happened in our town."
Among those who came out to observe the ceremony was Edie Hardwick, 66, of Middlebury, Conn.
"It's such a horrific thing. Such a horrible thing." she said.
When the bells tolled mournfully to honor the victims of last week's shooting rampage, they did so 26 times, for each child and staff member killed.
Rarely do residents mention the first person police said Adam Lanza killed that morning: his mother, Nancy, who was shot in the head four times while she lay in bed.
That makes 27.
A private funeral was held Thursday in New Hampshire for Nancy Lanza, according to Donald Briggs, the police chief in Kingston, N.H., where her funeral was held. About 25 family members attended the ceremony.
In Newtown, where makeshift memorials of stuffed animals, angels, candles, flowers and balloons have blossomed on patches of grass throughout town, there is only one noticeable tribute to Nancy Lanza. It's a letter written by a friend on yellow paper affixed, screwed and shellacked onto a red piece of wood.
"Others now share pain for choices you faced alone; May the blameless among us throw the first stone," it reads in part.
No one outwardly blames Nancy Lanza for the rampage. But authorities have said the gunman, her 20-year-old son Adam, used the guns she kept at their home to carry out a massacre that became the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history and has stirred lawmakers to call for gun control laws.
Some view her as a victim, but one whose guns were used to kill first-graders. And others think Nancy Lanza was an innocent victim, one who should be counted and included at memorials.
Newtown and environs weathered a fourth day of funerals Thursday as mourners laid to rest Catherine Hubbard, Benjamin Wheeler, Jesse Lewis and Allison Wyatt, all 6 years old; and Grace McDonnell, 7. On Friday, five funerals or memorials were planned.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was one of the people to visit Newtown on Thursday, stopping by a firehouse.
Biden, who is overseeing the administration's response to last week's shooting, said he and Obama are "absolutely committed" to curbing gun violence in the United States.
"Even if we can only save one life, we have to take action," he said.
Gun-control measures have faced fierce resistance in Congress for years, but that may be changing because of the events in Connecticut, which shocked the nation.
After the shooting, Obama signaled for the first time that he's willing to spend significant political capital on the issue. Some prominent gun-rights advocates on Capitol Hill -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- have expressed willingness to consider new measures.
Investigators have said that Nancy Lanza, a gun enthusiast, visited shooting ranges several times and that her son also visited an area range.
Authorities say Adam Lanza shot his mother at their home and then took her