An event is held in Newtown, Conn., in honor of the Sandy Hook victims. A 26-second… (Spencer Platt, Getty Images )
People in Newtown, Conn., and around the country paused Friday to remember the tragic shooting rampage that took place at an elementary school six months ago to the day.
While Newtown Public Schools officials planned no memorials or other events to mark the Dec. 14 incident, the victims and their families were remembered in a number of ceremonies.
Gray clouds filled the sky and intermittent showers fell as Newtown churches rang their bells to signal a moment of silence just after 9:30 a.m.
That's the approximate time lone gunman Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School that December morning. Many of the victims were just 6 years old. Lanza took the rifle, shotgun, handguns and hundreds of bullets he was carrying from the collection of his mother, Nancy Lanza, a gun enthusiast. She was the first to die; he shot her at her home before heading to the school, authorities said.
At one of the ceremonies, the names of the 26 shooting victims were read aloud.
"This pain is excruciating and unbearable," said Carlee Soto, who lost an older sister, first-grade teacher Victoria Soto, in the shooting. She paused, gathering herself before continuing: "But thanks to people like you who support us, we are able to get through it."
Other events were planned throughout the day at local churches and elsewhere.
Victims' families and other advocates took the opportunity to push Congress for gun control measures that they said would save hundreds of lives each year. Friday morning's event, in fact, served as a kickoff for a bus tour sponsored by the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The coalition bus will stop in 25 states over the next 100 days, holding rallies to stir up support for laws requiring more background checks for gun purchases.
Carlee Soto and another sister, Jillian Soto, have become vocal supporters of gun control since the Sandy Hook shooting. They have met with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, and Carlee Soto says both pledged to continue to push for gun control legislation.
In April, despite cries for increased background checks for gun buyers and banning large-capacity clips, federal legislation proposing those ideas died in the Senate. Groups such as the National Rifle Assn. had fought the measure.
"From the start we have known that words of comfort would never be enough" for the Sandy Hook victims, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said Thursday. "There is no substitute for the action we must take. That would be a truly fitting memorial."
Sandy Hook Elementary School itself sits closed and fenced-off to the public. Local and state officials have decided to raze the school buildings where the shooting took place, and rebuild on the same site at an estimated cost of about $42 million.