Norwich bells remember 26 victims

Norwich — More than 50 city employees, heads bowed and some wiping away tears, stood silently in the second floor hallway at City Hall Friday morning as high above the City Hall clock tower bell chimed 26 times to remember each of the shooting victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown one week ago Friday.

A distant bell — perhaps from Central Baptist Church or the nearby St. Patrick's Cathedral — seemed to echo the City Hall bell amid pounding rain and a howling wind.

"Thank you for honoring the lives lost in Newtown," City Manager Alan Bergren said when the solemn tolling ended. People only slowly broke out of their silence and resumed conversations as they headed back to their offices or police patrol cars and fire vehicles.

"It was very powerful and very moving," said Kevin Harkins, president of the Friends of the Norwich Bells.

The organization that encourages bell ringing for events both festive and solemn urged Norwich residents to toll hand-held bells Friday morning along with the moment of silence and bell-ringing requested by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to mark the one-week anniversary of the Newtown massacre.

Bergren asked City Hall employees to close their offices and gather in the second floor hallway in front of the historic 1860 Abraham Lincoln campaign banner at 9:30 for the memorial ceremony.

Bergren said a representative from the company that maintains the City Hall tower clock was called in Friday morning to switch the tower bell from the automated hourly ringing to a manual setting for Friday's 26 rings.

A similar switch will be made on Jan. 1 for the city's planned bell-ringing to mark the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation that ordered slaves freed in the rebellious Southern states.

c.bessette@theday.com

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