By Mannix Porterfield
The peal of bells can be heard across the Beckley area this morning, not sounds of Christmas revelry, but a solemn gesture honoring the victims of the Connecticut school massacre.
At 9:30 a.m., exactly one week to the hour after the horrific event unfolded, several churches planned to sound the bells 26 times — one for all 20 children and six adults victimized in the Sandy Hook Elementary school tragedy.
An appeal went out late in the week by Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, calling on places of worship across America to join in the bell ringing, along with government buildings equipped to do so.
There are no bells in the Raleigh County Courthouse, but Administrator John Humphrey met Thursday with commissioners seeking a way to join in honor of the Connecticut victims.
In Tuesday’s commission meeting, President John Aliff led the attendees in a moment of silence to pay homage to Sandy Hook’s fallen.
Malloy also asked all Americans to join in a moment of silence to honor the victims of a lone gunman.
Many churches in Beckley were unaware of the governor’s call until this newspaper contacted them. But those such as Memorial Baptist, St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church, Calloway Heights Baptist, and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church readily agreed to honor the victims.
“Yes, we will do it,” said Rev. John White, rector of St. Stephen’s.
White said he sees a spiritual problem behind the baffling outburst of gunfire that left the 26 dead in a matter of minutes.
“These kinds of shootings do seem to suggest there is something amiss and I think this Christmas season, God is working to address that,” he said.
“Through Christ, we can find a way forward. We have to commit to that.”
Since Temple Beth El in Beckley has only a student rabbi who conducts services once monthly, and has already put in a recent visit, no special ceremony is planned there, said a spokesman, Tom Sopher.
But in Charleston, Rabbi Jim Cohn of Temple B’nai Israel plans to address the tragic shooting at tonight’s services.
“And we’ll include them (the victims) in our prayers, remembering the people who have died,” Cohn said.
Cohn didn’t plan to directly address the violent episode but said murder is nothing new to the human race, dating back to the first recorded in the Bible when Cain slew Abel.
“I’m not entirely sure that it brings a new problem to the human condition,” he said of the Connecticut shooting.
“I think this kind of thing has been around for as long as we’ve been a species. It’s a constant effort to overcome it.”
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin called on West Virginians to lower flags to half staff and join in both the moment of silence ringing of the bells.
In his proclamation, Malloy said all of his constituents “and indeed, the people of the world, mourn the immeasurable losses suffered by the families and loved ones of the fallen.”
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