Adam Lanza at the age of 16 began studies at Western Connecticut State University, maintaining a 3.26 grade point average. His interests, as reflected in his courses there, ran toward computer science, including website design, the computer language BASIC, data modeling, as well as required courses such as Philosophy, American History, and Economics. Earlier, he was a member of his high-school tech club. Lanza had no Facebook page. Police investigators said that when they located the young man’s computer, they found the hard drive had been smashed.
Prior to early college, he was remembered by members of his 10th-grade Honors English class as intelligent, although nervous and fidgety. He spat his words out, as if having to speak was painful.
Lanza, the shooter at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, was now 20 years old, and afflicted with a mild case of Asperger syndrome, an autism-spectrum condition which causes the sufferer to have difficulties in social interaction, finding it difficult to speak and appearing awkward and clumsy. School members told reporters that Adam Lanza wasn’t bullied or chided for his awkwardness, just that “Some had concerns about him.” Lanza was known to be a loner; no one recalled him having any friends, and he was quickly out the door and on his way home when the school day ended. As in most forms of autism, the afflicted had only limited empathy toward others.
Many residents of Newtown where Adam Lanza grew up noticed his differences; some called him a “weird kid.” A former classmate said the tall, pale boy had been a “weird kid” since they were five years old. The classmate made the odd statement, referring to the shooting of children and adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, that “As horrible as this was, I can’t say I am surprised.”
One schoolmate, who sat near Adam in a sophomore year (high school) Honors Math class, said Lanza seldom spoke, but earned high marks. It was this classmate who recalled that people didn’t pick on Lanza for his disabilities, “From what I saw, people just let him be, and that was that.” Another former classmate said he was familiar with the form of autism affecting Lanza; he described Adam as having a “very flat affect; if you looked at him, you couldn’t see any emotions going through his head.” Others said that Mr. Lanza’s evident discomfort prompted giggles from those who didn’t understand him.
Olivia DeVivo remembers Adam Lanza as well as most. “You could tell that he felt uncomfortable about being put on the spot. I think that maybe he wasn’t given the right kind of attention or help. I think he went so unnoticed that people didn’t even stop to realize that maybe there’s actually something else going on here; that maybe he needs to be talking or getting some kind of mental help.” She added her feeling that, “In high school, no one really takes the time to look and think, ‘Why is he acting this way?’” She remembers the boy from sixth grade and even earlier who talked, as many prepubescent boys do, about aliens, and blowing things up. But, once again oddly, DeVivo said that she “wasn’t surprised” at the shooting of teachers and very young children. She said people in Newtown weren’t surprised. “They said he always seemed like he was someone who was capable of that because he just didn’t really connect with our high school, and didn’t really connect with our town.”
Adam Lanza didn’t appear for yearbook pictures; he wore a similiar stylized uniform every day: khakis, a shirt buttoned to the neck, pens lined in his shirt pocket. He carried a black briefcase.
Adam was dressed in military style, in combat gear, on Friday when he shot his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School where he had to pull and re-pull a trigger as he hailed bullets into 20 young children and six adults. This was one of the deadliest shootings in the nation’s history. He then turned the Bushmaster semi-automatic assault rifle on himself, and died. Earlier that morning he had killed his mother at the home in which the two lived. (One has to wonder, as an afterthought, if the Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle used by the shooter may have been modified for automatic operation. One young victim, six-year-old Noah Pozner, was shot no less than 11 times during the brief assault on the first grade classrooms. Noah leaves behind a twin sister, who was sheltered in another classroom.)
Adam Lanza’s mother and he lived alone together in a family home. Nancy Lanza had ladies’ nights at the spacious Newtown, Connecticut, home, some 60 miles from New York City, a home surrounded by rolling hills, where the ladies played Bunco, a dice game. She was kidded by some for her extravagant landscaping which no one saw, the landscaping being in the rear of the colonial house. She and her husband had been separated for the past two years, and her older son had moved out at about that time.
In reponse to questioning about a substantial gun collection, Adam’s aunt, Nancy’s sister Marsha, indicated to reporters that her sister was “gun obsessed,” part of a movement that lives in fear of a coming economic collapse and a subsequent breakdown of society.
Marsha Lanza called Adam a “quiet, nice kid.” But he had issues with learning, the aunt reported. She called Adam the “challenge of the family in that house.” Marsha, who lives in Crystal Lake, Illinois, said her sister had issues with the school board, and ended up having her son home-schooled. The aunt couldn’t say whether the issues were pertaining to behavior, or to learning disabilities. She said Adam was a very, very bright boy. She said her sister “battled” with the school board. Referring to her sister’s financial situation, Marsha Lanza said, “She [Nancy] didn’t have to work because my brother-in-law left her very well off, very well off. She was always there for her kids.”
We may never fully understand why a bright young man with a promising future would shoot and kill his mother, then specifically target and murder helpless children. At this point, we can’t even begin to speculate.
Photo: Winnipeg Free Press