Many residents in the region joined a nationwide moment of silence Friday morning to honor the victims of the Newtown, Conn., shootings.
At 9:30, Mayor Nutter asked students from Samuel Powel Elementary School in West Philadelphia to close their eyes, "play the quiet game for 30 seconds or so," and "think about something really good."
Most of the students, gathered at nearby Metropolitan Baptist Church for their winter concert, did not know why Nutter made the request.
Faculty and many parents had not shared the information, principal Kimberly Ellerbee said, adding that students had asked very few questions about the Dec. 14 killings.
Nutter, whose daughter, Olivia, attended Powel, ended the silence by asking, "So, how were those thoughts?"
Some parents in the audience fought back tears. "We love you," Nutter said. "Be kind to each other."
Then three students took the stage to play "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" on violin, and the concert was under way.
Afterward, Nutter said, "I needed to be with them. It's very emotional." He added that "we can't ever forget ultimately it's got to be just about kids."
Connecticut Gov. Daniel P. Malloy on Thursday asked people across his state to observe a moment of silence at 9:30 a.m., the time the attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School began Dec. 14. Places of worship and buildings with bells were asked to ring them 26 times for the victims at the school.
President Obama then announced he would observe the moment in private, which he did with staff Friday at the White House.
Gov. Christie signed an executive order for the statewide moment of silence.
Many in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, in local government offices at least, joined the movement.
In the Burlington County Courthouse in Mount Holly, the intercom screeched to life as court employee Donna Mazzanti read from Christie's order.
"All citizens of New Jersey shall reflect with a moment of silence," Mazzanti read, "in honor of each life that was taken far too soon at Sandy Hook Elementary School."
Two dozen people stood and bowed their heads in Courtroom 7B, where Judge Jeanne T. Covert had just finished one case and was preparing to move to another.
One person in the crowd tried to talk to a lawyer, but was quickly quieted and told to sit.
At the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, business in the Prothonotary's Office abruptly stopped at 9:30 as about 24 staffers and a customer bowed their heads.
"It was needed," said Casey Whitehead, 25, a clerk in the office. "Everybody was emotional about it. It was a terrible tragedy."
Executive assistant Robin Beall, 44, said she and all the staff ached over the loss of the 20 children who died when 20-year-old Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary School armed and firing.
Beall asked the staffers to gather, rather than honoring the moment of silence at their desks.
"It was hard on the staff. It was hard for them to talk about it," she said. "Everybody needs a little healing. This has touched everybody.
"It hurt," she said, as her voice began trembling. "Everybody needs a hand to hold."