(CNN) — The people of Newtown, Connecticut, on Saturday are remembering a tragedy that convulsed the nation one year ago.
A socially awkward young man walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School with a rifle on December 14, 2012. Adam Lanza gunned down 20 children, ages 6 and 7, and six adults at the school. Then he killed himself.
The people in this community of 28,000 in the southwest part of the state hope to grieve in private. Town leaders have asked the news media to stay away.
“There’s an emotional and economic toll that we pay when the media descends on us, so we ask for your forbearance after today and respectfully request that you allow us a time of peace and quiet,” said Pat Llodra, the town’s first selectman, a role similar to that of mayor.
In Washington, President Obama and the first lady observed a moment of silence and lit candles in honor of those lost in the massacre. Obama devoted his weekly address on Saturday to the one-year anniversary of the shooting.
“As parents, as Americans, the news filled us with grief,” Obama said in his address. “Newtown is a town like so many of our hometowns. The victims were educators and kids that could have been any of our own. And our hearts were broken for the families that lost a piece of their heart; for the communities changed forever; for the survivors, so young, whose innocence was torn away far too soon.”
Obama honored the “impossibly brave” Newtown parents “who stepped forward in the hopes that they might spare others their heartbreak. And they were joined by millions of Americans — mothers and fathers; sisters and brothers — who refused to accept these acts of violence as somehow inevitable.”
“Over the past year, their voices have sustained us. And their example has inspired us — to be better parents and better neighbors; to give our children everything they need to face the world without fear; to meet our responsibilities not just to our own families, but to our communities. More than the tragedy itself, that’s how Newtown will be remembered,” Obama said.
Many news organizations said they’ll honor that request by not reporting in the city of Newtown itself, but that was before Friday’s shooting at Arapahoe High in Colorado. The news value of Newtown has gone up. CNN will air a documentary about Newtown at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday.
Nobody knows why Lanza, 20, killed the children and adults at the school, his mother at the home they shared, and himself. He had attended the school briefly, but that was years ago.
Last month, Connecticut’s state attorney’s office released its official report that tried to piece together what happened. The investigation provided some insights into the life and actions of the gunman, but his motive remains a mystery.
The report suggested that improving the delivery of mental health care to those with chronic mental illness may be an important element in reducing certain acts of violence, and that mass shooters are not “enthralled” with violent video games.
The unanswered questions deepen the tragedy of Newtown, the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, following the April 2007 slaying of 32 people at Virginia Tech.
The shootings also caused a renewal of the debate over gun control. Obama addressed that issue in his Saturday remarks.
“We haven’t yet done enough to make our communities and our country safer. We have to do more to keep dangerous people from getting their hands on a gun so easily. We have to do more to heal troubled minds. We have to do everything we can to protect our children from harm and make them feel loved, and valued, and cared for,” he said.
“As a nation, we can’t stop every act of violence. We can’t heal every troubled mind. But if we want to live in a country where we can go to work, send our kids to school, and walk our streets free from fear, we have to keep trying. We have to keep caring. We have to treat every child like they’re our child. Like those in Sandy Hook, we must choose love. And together, we must make a change.”