Connecticut school shooting: How well do we know our children?

Published: December 15, 2012
Email

We all need to ask ourselves a question as parents, how well do we really know our children?PHOTO: REUTERS

On the morning of December 14, twenty-year-old Adam Lanza shot his mother in the face at their house and then drove to the Connecticut elementary school where his mother worked as a kindergarten teacher.

He had two semi-automatic handguns, a semi-automatic rifle and several rounds of ammunition with him. His indiscriminate open fire in his mother’s classroom resulted in the second worst school shooting in United States history, surpassed by the Virginia Tech massacre that claimed 33 lives in 2007.

Beside his own suicide and the murder of his mother, Lanza killed 20 children, mostly between five and 10-years-old, and five other adults including the school principal.

The macabre incident has left the entire nation speechless, children terrified and parents horrified.

Twenty-year-old Lanza leaves behind a string of questions most of which could possibly have been answered only by his mother. Tragically enough, she was the first to have died at his hands. It was as if he was avenging his mother, with whom he was living.

Why and for what?

One can only guess.

As in other similar cases, it is now presumed that Lanza had mental issues, possibly personality related. This is speculated because he was carrying his brother’s ID at the time of the murders. Though there is still speculation on the exact nature of his mental illness, there is little doubt that only a severely deranged person could open fire on a classroom full of young children.

The second question, linked to the first, is that if Lanza had mental issues, how is it possible for Nancy Lanza to have been unaware of them?

As a mother living with her son, it is unlikely that she had absolutely no idea that something was amiss. Some level of tension and animosity must have existed between the two that led him to not only shoot her gruesomely in the face but also murder 20 of her innocent children in cold blood.

In short, Lanza was a walking time-bomb. And yet all three of the firearms that Lanza had in his possession were licensed to Nancy Lanza.

Was it a wise decision for her to have had these with a mentally and emotionally imbalanced son in the same house?

The third question is prompted by the manner in which Lanza enacted the entire grisly incident and its background. Lanza was not an isolated loner, he was not shunned by his family, he was living with his mother, his mother was a school teacher, and the two were reportedly quiet and not troublesome in the community. In short, on the face of it, there is little awry in this family picture. Though the parents were divorced, the father lived not very far away.

This third question is actually a question that we all need to ask ourselves as parents.

How well do we really know our children?

Did Nancy Lanza know about the hatred that was brewing in her son’s head? Did she realise that he needed help and if she did, had she taken any steps to get him into counselling or on medication? Supposing that she did do this, why did she keep not one but three firearms in her house? Were they to protect her own self from her son?

Again, if she felt that her son was such a threat to herself, didn’t she realise, or did she choose to ignore, the possibility that he could be a worse threat to society? Were there unresolved emotional issues between the mother and son? Or were there similar unresolved, festering issue between the son and the father? If so, were they addressed in a healthy manner or were they ignored for ‘lack of time’?

Again, the most important questions to be explored in any such incident can only be answered by the ones closest to the assailant. In this case, the mother, now dead, maybe the father and possibly the brother.

Mindless incidents of violence in human society, no matter in which part of the globe they occur, are matters of concern for global society in general. They expose the vulnerability of the human condition to the evil of man’s soul when it chooses to be evil.

The key questions hence need to be addressed by the collective global society.

In this case, the collective global ‘parental society’; how well do we know our children? Are we giving them the help they might need but are not asking for? Are we the friends that our children need when they can really use a friend?

At the end, I wish to offer a silent prayer for the deceased and their families.

Irum Sarfaraz

Irum Sarfaraz

A freelance writer, op-ed columnist, essayist and web content developer settled in San Francisco Bay Area.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.