Last Friday morning, December 14, Adam Lanza killed his mother, Nancy Lanza and then entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 20 children and six adults including the school's beloved Principal, Dawn Hochstrung. The tragedy is among the nation's most gruesome school shootings, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, which took the lives of 32 people, as well as that of the gunman.
The tragic event prompted President Obama to appear later that morning calling for sympathy for the families of the deceased, as well as preventive action for the future. Obama ordered that flags be flown at half staff until December 18 to honor the memory of the many victims. In addition, the president reminded people of the need to embrace their children as the community and the nation sorts out the details of this tragedy and the aftermath.
The gunman, Adam Lanza was a known loner. Some media reports have suggested that he suffered from Asperger Syndrome which has classic symptoms, including a marked lack of empathy in human relations, deficits in communication , lack of eye contact in personal interactions, fixated interests and great difficulty in maintaining even the most basic human relationships. Clinically, there is no known direct association or correlation between Asperger's and violence.
If this psychological portrait of the gunman is accurate, it might shed light on Adam's killing of his own mother, as well as the systematic murder of 20 children and adults at Sandy Hook school. The marked lack of empathy is one of the classic symptoms of Asperger's although it doesn't explain violent acts by persons who suffer from this syndrome.
The lack of eye contact in human relations is another aspect that might enter into the killings because the killer was focused on a fixated thought. The fixated thought may have overridden even the most basic triggering of the conscience to intervene in any rational way to restrain the gunman from pulling the trigger with machine-like precision.
In addition, there are a constellation of other issues in the life of Adam Lanza. One of the most outstanding was the divorce of his parents along with issues of personal self worth.
After the murder scene is cleared, the community must focus on proper burials for the deceased, as well as returning to a normal routine at the height of the holiday season. This task will be difficult. Part of the rebuilding process will be to assure the town children that the local authorities have the situation under control and that it is safe to return to school. This will address a child's need for social referencing from parents and those in authority. Younger children need to be shielded from overexposure to this horrific event. Accordingly, parents and teachers need to listen to the concerns of children and address them.