By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN
NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) _ Church bells tolled in Newtown on Saturday to mark the anniversary of the shooting massacre that killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and President Barack Obama called on Americans to help prevent future violence in a radio address on the tragedy.
The bells rang 26 times as names of each of the victims were read at St. Rose of Lima church in Newtown, one of several houses of worship that held private services Saturday for a community still grieving the deaths of 20 children and six educators.
Obama said in his radio address that the massacre at Sandy Hook will be remembered as a tragedy that inspired the nation to make communities safer.
“We have to do more to keep dangerous people from getting their hands on a gun so easily. We have to do more to heal troubled minds. We have to do everything we can to protect our children from harm and make them feel loved, and valued, and cared for,” said Obama, who also observed a moment of silence and lit candles at the White House in honor of the victims.
Newtown town asked for quiet and privacy on the anniversary.
Satellite television trucks filled Newtown’s streets in the days after the shooting, and media have often returned since to the community of 28,000 people for stories related to the attack.
In an effort to keep the anniversary focused on quiet reflection, First Selectman E. Patricia Llodra announced in October that Newtown would not host any formal remembrance events. The news media were asked to keep their distance, and “No Media” signs went up around town as they did in the weeks after the tragedy.
Some news organizations stayed away Saturday from Newtown. A reporter and photographer for The Associated Press, whose reports are available to media worldwide, were present in the community, and some townspeople were willing to share their thoughts.
“You kind of hope the town can put it behind without actually forgetting about the victims,” said Andrew Snow, a 49-year-old mechanic who was drinking coffee at the general store with a friend. “But it’s not easy to do. I think about it every day.”
Snow, who lives in Southbury, grew up in Newtown and is moving back to support the community.
The gunman, Adam Lanza, killed his mother inside their Newtown home on Dec. 14, 2012, before driving to the school, where he carried out his rampage. He killed himself as police arrived.
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