MANCHESTER - Two bells rang out across a frosty Manchester Saturday afternoon. One sits atop the Methodist church, tucked away in a steeple. The other was clutched in a mittened hand of a teacher that may have escaped the Sandy Hook shooting, but did not escape the tragedy. Both bells rang out 26 times to commemorate the lives lost one year ago Dec. 14.

Gun Sense Vermont held a vigil on the town green as a way to remember the mass shooting one year ago and also let the families affected in Newtown know that they are not forgotten, said Mary Welford of Gun Sense Vermont. According to the organization's website, gunsensevt.

A group of local residents and others gathered on the Manchester town green Saturday to observe the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings in
A group of local residents and others gathered on the Manchester town green Saturday to observe the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings in Newtown, Conn. (Anna Boarini photo)
org, they are working for commonsense, common-ground improvements to state gun laws, specifically expanded background checks, tougher gun trafficking laws and bringing Vermont law in line with federal law, prohibiting violent felons from possessing firearms.

The vigil was lightly attended by about a dozen individuals and started with Dina Janis, a Gun Sense Vermont member, saying this was an incredibly awful day one year ago.

"When I heard what had happened, first I was filled with disbelief, anger and then a deep sadness...I still feel for that loss," she said. "[But] I am filled with hope that we can come together to combat gun violence."

Janis asked Tom Ferguson of Arlington who was attending the vigil to read the Sandy Hook Promise aloud. The Sandy Hook Promise is a pledge written by the non-profit of the same name formed by some of the parents and spouses of the victims of the shooting. According to their website, sandyhookpromise.com, the intent of their organization is to honor all victims of gun violence by turning the tragedy into a moment of transformation. "To turn the conversation into actions. Things must change. This is the time....To do everything in our power to b remembered not as the town filled with grief and victims; but as the place where real change began," The promise reads. "Our hearts are broken; Our spirit is not. This is our promise." After reciting the promise, all 26 names of the victims, 20 children and six adults were read, followed by a moment of silence for each.

Janis then opened the floor to allow individuals to say anything on their mind, or share how this tragedy made them feel.

Lauren Tucker of Dorset said what she keeps asking herself is what can we do both individually and as communities to make the situation of gun violence in America better.

Ferguson said this shooting, as well as other recent mass shootings, makes him think about the state of mental health and illness in America. "It is so clear to me, that one of the major problems we have [is mental illness and lack of treatment]," He said. "This gentleman [Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza] and the guy in Aurora [James Holmes], this is their legacy. Not to come to their defense, but what kind of hell must they be living in to come to this place?"

It was then that a short woman came up to the vigil. She introduced herself as a teacher at Sandy Hook who was able to escape the violence. She and her husband left Connecticut to be away from the media and mourn in their own way. They went to the river by Orvis, she said, and threw a stone in the water for each victim.

She told the individuals at the vigil, with tears welling in her eyes, that it was nice to see people in a community in another state, without ties to the school, remembering those that were lost.

Ferguson was the first to give her a hug.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, a national debate over gun control and safety issues started to gain ground. Congress was unable to pass tighter national gun control laws and even though President Obama signed 23 executive actions related to strengthen existing laws, comprehensive new legislation to expand background checks for gun buyers failed to obtain passage through Congress.

Wendell Coleman, a Londonderry resident and supporter of gun rights said what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School was an unimaginable evil, but he said some of the dialogue around gun safety and potential restrictions was not productive. He gave the example of trying to restrict magazines to 10 rounds. 

"The only situation in which this [limitation of rounds] would make a difference, is in a confrontation with police who are shooting back at you," he said. "It would have made no difference, absolutely no difference at Sandy Hook."

Coleman said he believes there are perfectly good reasons to carry a firearm that have nothing to do with hunting and gun safety has more to do with the individual carrying the gun, then safety features. He said he personally believes the safest part of a firearm is a knowledgeable owner that has an absolute moral obligation to understand how their gun works.

Before the bells started to ring out of the Methodist church, the Sandy Hook teacher's husband retrieved her own small bell from their truck to ring as well. The teacher said this bell was given to her by The New Jersey firefighter's building playgrounds in honor of those lost in the shooting. The small bell, hanging from a green cord, is inscribed with a quote from the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life."

"Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings," it says.