NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) -- 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 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.
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. Everybody wants to do what they can," she said.
Pat Papuga, 60, came from Branford with a box full of candy canes tied with ribbons that said `sandy hook angels,' which she dropped off at a coffee shop to give away to town's children.
"We just wanted to be here where everything happened to pay our respects. We just wanted to bring a little something to show that we care."
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.
Nationwide, churches were to ring their bells Friday morning. Two gold balloons, one a 2, the other a 6, are tied to a bridge. Handwritten tributes mention 26 snowflakes. "26 angels will guide us," reads one.
The dearth of tributes to Nancy Lanza underscores the complicated mix of emotions surrounding her after the shooting.
In a small town where multiple funerals are taking place each day, where black-clad mourners stand in lines waiting to say goodbye to another child, many are incredibly angry at Nancy Lanza for not keeping her guns away from her son.
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.
"It's a loss of life and, yes, her life mattered," said Christine Lombardi. "Yes, I do believe she should be included."
Others in Newtown are weary of the crush of media and have become reluctant to answer questions after a difficult week. But the subject of marking Nancy Lanza's death, along with those of the children and teachers killed by her son, seemed mainly to surprise two moms who stopped to place flowers at the memorial at Main and Sugar streets with their two grammar-school