On the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre on Saturday, residents of Newtown, Conn., quietly and out of the media’s spotlight, mourned the 20 children and six adults murdered by gunman Adam Lanza.
Newtown remembered the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting with church gatherings and vigils across the town honoring those who perished on Dec. 14, 2012. NBC News reported that the bells in the town of 28,000 chimed 26 times. The fire station donned 26 stars, made of green and white lights, on its roof. Twenty-six sand dollars bearing the names of the victims hung from a lighted tree. The town’s American flag flew at half staff.
This past year was a series of bitter firsts for the surviving relatives of those killed in Newtown one year ago. For many, it was their child’s or loved one’s first missed birthday, and the first new school year for which there was no first-day photo. Others observed their first holidays without their child or sister or mother, or perhaps traveled for the first time since the tragedy.
In Washington, President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, lit candles and held a moment of silence for the victims of the Newtown shooting. Obama also issued a statement, saying that the surviving mothers and fathers have “inspired” the rest of the nation.
"As parents, as Americans, the news filled us with grief," Obama said. "Newtown is a town like so many of our hometowns. The victims were educators and kids that could have been any of our own. And our hearts were broken for the families that lost a piece of their heart; for the communities changed forever; for the survivors, so young, whose innocence was torn away far too soon."
Before Saturday, residents asked that media respect Newtown’s privacy by keeping their distance so that survivors could mourn in peace. Several signs were posted around the town that read, “No Media!” and “No Press.” On other signs were written the words “God bless the families” and “Peace.”
"Newtown's ask of the world for the anniversary is to stay where you are and do acts of kindness and honor those we’ve lost," David Ackert, chairman of the Newtown Foundation and Newtown Action Alliance, told NBC Connecticut.
Many news organizations agreed to honor the request and stay clear of Newtown on Saturday. A documentary about the shooting aired on CNN in the evening.