Church bells across Georgia tolled 26 times at 9:30 a.m. Friday, honoring the memory of the children and adults killed in last week’s massacre at a Connecticut elementary school.
Twenty children and six adults were killed last Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., by a 20-year-old man who then killed himself. Police said the gunman had killed his mother before going to the school around 9:30 a.m.
At the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Rev. Francis Michael Stiteler rang a bell in memory of the victims.
“Normally, the novices ring the bells, but I asked to do it,” the abbot said. “In respect of the request, I did it 26 times, but for us monks, it’s important to remember that 28 people died, all of them children of God.”
Stiteler said he had to alert the 35 monks currently living at the monastery before Friday’s observance, because the bell that was tolled is known as the “death bell.”
“That bell is reserved to be used at the time of funerals or at the time of death,” Stiteler said. “When a monk is dying, we also toll that bell, so that the brothers know to come to the infirmary if the brother is there so that we can gather in prayer, so I was fearful that when they heard the bell tolling, they would think someone was dying up in the infirmary.”
He said last week’s shooting “has been mentioned every morning at mass.”
At Atlanta First United Methodist Church, several dozen preschoolers were led into the sanctuary to hear the church’s 162-year-old bell being sounded for the children and adults killed at the Connecticut school.
The children, ranging in age from toddlers to around 4 years old, sat in rapt attention as Walker Mitcham and Ellen Hicks used all their strength to pull the long, inch-thick rope attached to the bell.
The idea for Friday morning’s bell-ringing originated with McDonough Mayor Billy Copeland. Copeland’s assistant, Leslie Balog, suggested the idea after remembering how church bells in Henry County rang shortly after a gunman killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007.
Less than 24 hours after his wife was shot eight times, Michael Parson discussed wedding plans with a 21-year-old woman he had proposed to, prosecutor Linda Dunikowski said on day one of his trial for attempted murder.