Obama joins Newtown moment of silence

A makeshift memorial on December 20, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut

A makeshift memorial on December 20, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. US President Barack Obama on Friday vowed to take action to stop gun violence in response to online petitions signed by more than 400,000 people after last week's elementary school massacre.

President Barack Obama joined a nationwide moment of silence on Friday to mark the passing of one week since the Newtown school massacre.

Obama took part in the unofficial national day of mourning at the White House and his wife, Michelle Obama, sent an open letter of support for the survivors.

Connecticut State Governor Dannel Malloy first called on residents to stop and reflect in silence at 09:30 am (1330 GMT), the minute on December 14 that 20-year-old Adam Lanza burst into the Sandy Hook Elementary School and began slaughtering 20 six- and seven-year-old children and six staff.

"Let us all come together collectively to mourn the loss of far too many promising lives," Malloy said. "Though we will never know the full measure of sorrow experienced by these families, we can let them know that we stand with them during this difficult time."

Malloy asked for churches and government buildings to ring bells 26 times, symbolizing each of the victims in the school.

In Newton, bell rang as people on the street stood in a cold, driving rain.

His appeal was quickly matched by state governors from Hawaii to Florida, who called on residents to observe their own moment of silence at 09:30 am local time in solidarity.

Houses of worship around the country also embraced the week's anniversary.

The National Council of Churches said that thousands of churches would "observe a minute of silence and at 9:30 am Friday sound their bells 26 times in memory of the victims who died in the school."

On the crowd-sourced charity site, causes.com, almost 177,000 people had signed up by early Friday to pledge a moment's silence.

Michelle Obama wrote to the people of Newtown that "as a mother of two young daughters, my heart aches for you and your families."

However, "the countless acts of courage, kindness and love here in Newtown and across America" had inspired her to believe the country had shown its good side in the aftermath of the massacre, she said.

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