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Churches ring bells for Newtown victims

Tonight's Clermont vigil changes location due to weather

POSTED: December 21, 2012 10:43 a.m.

Hall County will join together today to honor the memory of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., a week after the event took place.

At 9:30 this morning, the First Baptist, First United Methodist and First Presbyterian churches of Gainesville rang their bells 26 times to mark the victims of the shooting. The idea originated from Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, who called on churches and places of worship across his state to ring bells 26 times at 9:30 a.m. to commemorate a day of mourning.

Grace Episcopal Church in Gainesville also participated but rang church bells a total of 28 times to include the lives of the shooter and his mother, who also died.

Bill Coates, senior pastor of First Baptist, said Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s office contacted him Wednesday about his church’s willingness to participate.

"I think they’re really looking for maximum participation," said Coates. "I thought it was a wonderful idea, for a variety of reasons."

Coates emphasized that during a time of such tragedy, it’s important to show the victims’ families the support they have nationwide.

"After such deep tragedy and senseless violence, there’s so little we can do. Sometimes we can only be symbolic, but that’s something that we can do. We need unity as a nation to stand against this violence. It (allows) those who already feel helpless to help those whose lives were affected," Coates said. "What affects one affects all."

Susie Oliver, a member of First Baptist’s adult hand bell choir, rang a large hand bell on the church’s front porch.

The Hall County Sheriff’s Office is also asking those in the community to join others around the world today in wearing green and white, Sandy Hook’s official school colors.

Several local businesses are joining the initiative, and Hall County Sheriff’s Office employees will be wearing green and white ribbons, according to Investigator Christy Van Scoten.

Pictures of those wearing green and white can be sent to sandyhookhallcounty@gmail.com to be included in a photo collage that will be sent to Sandy Hook.

Vigils for Sandy Hook victims will be held at 5:30 p.m. at Gardens on Green, 711 Green St., Gainesville, and 7 p.m. at the Clermont Gym at 640 Main St., changed from the Clay E. Gailey Park due to the weather.


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