Georgia mayor urges churches to ring bells Friday

Georgia mayor urges churches to ring bells Friday

December 20th, 2012 by Associated Press in Local Regional News

Church bells

Church bells

Photo by WRCB-TV Channel 3 /Times Free Press.

ATLANTA - A Georgia mayor is urging churches and places of worship across the state to ring their bells 26 times at 9:30 a.m. Friday, in remembrance of the 20 children and six adults gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

McDonough Mayor Billy Copeland said Wednesday that the idea appears to be gaining interest across Georgia, partly because the Georgia Municipal Association sent an email to its members urging them to consider it.

In the Northwest Georgia city of Rome, Mayor Evie McNiece is encouraging churches there to ring their bells.

Some churches outside Connecticut and Georgia also have announced plans to ring their bells Friday morning. Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said he hopes Tennessee Valley churches will join the remembrance.

"I think people would certainly welcome that sound," he said. "It's a somber occasion, and there's something about church bells that would be a very appropriate memorial."

Chattanooga's St. Paul's Episcopal Church will ring its bells Friday morning, Rector Donald Fishburne said.

"We are pleased to agree with our bishop's request that we toll the bells for all the victims in Newtown -- as a reminder of our continuing prayers and concern," he said.

The McDonough mayor's assistant, Leslie Balog, suggested the idea after recalling how church bells in Henry County rang shortly after a gunman killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007, Copeland said.

After Balog suggested the idea, the mayor called several community leaders in town.

"Nobody hesitated," Copeland said. "All of us here grieve."

Workers also hope to ring the clock tower of the 1899 Henry County Courthouse on the town square in McDonough, Copeland said.

In Athens, students will ring the University of Georgia Chapel bell 26 times at 9:30 a.m. Friday in memory of the lost lives, the university announced Wednesday.

In metro Atlanta, Lilburn officials are asking churches to ring their bells.

Copeland expects that other Georgia communities will participate, especially since the state's municipal association helped spread the word.

"We just made them aware of what Mayor Copeland was doing and passed along his request that every city consider taking a similar action," said Bill Thornton, deputy executive director of the Georgia Municipal Association.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy has proclaimed Friday a day of mourning. He's asking churches and places of worship in Connecticut to ring bells 26 times at 9:30 a.m. Friday.

Staff writer Shelly Bradbury contributed to this story.