A week after Sandy Hook Elementary School was changed forever, so was I. At first, I'd lay awake in bed at night for hours, getting up every few minutes to go check on my seven-month-old baby boy, to watch for the fall and rise of his tiny chest. Or if I was sleeping, it was quick. I would wake suddenly, sweating and out of breath. I was experiencing different nightmares that each ended the same way; I was being followed and I was running through a maze of hedges; no clearing in sight and always ending with gunshots sounding in my direction.
I thought about Adam Lanza throughout that week. I thought about his face, his dark hair, and his mysterious eyes. I looked at his photograph again and again searching for the "crazy" in those eyes. I wondered how far back he'd been planning or if maybe, it was the kind of thing that he had decided on the night before. I wondered about the number of people he murdered; if he had planned to "eliminate" exactly 26 people and if there was significance behind that number. I wondered if he had ever used his mother's guns before and when he began to feel different. I wondered if his mental ability to resonate with other human beings who share emotions, empathy, and sympathy -- had Adam ever felt those emotions? Did his mental state simply deteriorate over time through situations and instances he was involved in, life experiences he encountered or a childhood trauma dealt with in private? Had he any real friends to confide in? Had he sat with anyone at lunch time? Or, would the other kids say, "Oh, over there? That's Adam, he's in his own..." Who was the real Adam Lanza and what was he like? More importantly, what was he thinking on that December morning? I guess we'll never know.
But we can guess. There are theories and tests that have been formed and taken and are still being drawn up. The experts who believe that taking apart Adam Lanza both figuratively and literally will unveil some sort of answer or buried secret that will somehow explain this all. Like them, I have my own feelings and opinions, and I'd like to share them.
The truth is, that since December 14th, 2012, the day that the 20-year-old gunman swept the nation into a state of disbelief when he murdered an unfathomable 26 people, I have tried desperately to accumulate as much information as I could about the 20 children and six adult women whose lives were so tragically taken. But also, I've tried to find the facts on Adam; clues and details that would lead me to some sort of conclusion as to why he needed this to happen. But regardless of the reading I did or the questions I asked, there wasn't a whole lot to go on.
Preconceived notions were determined early on and it has been suggested by reporters regarding Nancy Lanza, the mother of the killer, who was said to have held a teaching job at the elementary school and therefore, Adam felt that more attention was being focused on Lanza's students than himself and this led him to shoot at the children who were robbing him of time with his mother. However, many say that this is false and in fact, her name did not appear on a staff list for the school. Another such article states that the 20-year-old must have been deeply affected by his adoration for gaming in which the characters use similar or the same weapons that he used to commit the murder-suicide. Yet, xbox players range anywhere from teens to middle-aged men and though it may have been said to desensitize violence in the minds of those who play, I do believe the 20-year-old was lost prior to his gaming obsession. "Doctor" journalists then diagnosed Adam with Asperger's Syndrome and concluded that this was a definite factor and may have served as a motive for his rampage. Yet, adults who suffer from Asperger's are rarely susceptible to succumb to violence neither use it as some sort of outlet.
One thing is for certain; Adam was no longer Adam Lanza when he ransacked classrooms, opening and slamming doors searching for his prey. Adam had become something else; a machine that had gone on autopilot, shooting at the stunned faces of the children and women who stood in his wake. Adam may have been depressed and alone, and perhaps those emotions translated into anger. But Adam wasn't Adam Lanza when he entered the elementary school on that December morning. A young Adam Lanza's eyes are light, sweet, and shining. The 20-year-old murderer's photograph appears dark and empty, his eyes opened wide much like a deer caught in the headlights. There is a part of me that believes that he wasn't always this way.
Perhaps the oddest and most mysterious details surrounding the massacre are that there are virtually no details. It has now been well over a month since the shooting transpired at Sandy Hook Elementary School and we still don't seem to have any sort of real information about Adam Lanza. Family members and friends haven't exactly been forthcoming and classmates seem to know next to nothing about the kid they shared a classroom with for most of their adolescent years. Lack of information can only lead me to believe that nobody really took the opportunity to get to know Adam. He may have been the odd one out, the brainy quiet kid who seemed to prefer being alone. A family friend told ABC news when asked about Lanza, "He was a deeply disturbed kid." He was described further as "unnerving," he made others around him uncomfortable. Then why didn't anyone speak up? Why didn't his classmates, Adam's teachers -- why didn't they say anything? If not to Adam, then why not to his parents?
More than five million Americans are said to experience an acute episode of mental illness at some point in life; which means that someone we know could be experiencing an episode right now.
Growing up, there is always that neighbor, that eerily quiet kid in the classroom that always seems to be standing or sitting alone, or that strange man in the corner who keeps looking over at you every few moments. We stop passengers in our airports and we encourage security personnel to "check our bags," why must this be different? If we knew the gentlemen standing in front of us on line, wearing a backpack and a baseball cap was carrying a bomb on his back, would we stand indifferently and anxiously await tragedy because speaking up would be too uncomfortable or compromising? Or, what about that story published years ago in Chicken Soup For The Soul about a student called Kyle, who was spotted walking home from school carrying all of his school books in hand, in preparation for what he had thought would be his weekend suicide. Kyle never followed through; a friendly gesture made by one of his peers saved him, reminding him that his life was worth living. Though the story may be fiction, I'm positive there are stories like Kyle's that do exist.
It is far easier to advocate for gun control than to discuss the far more complex taboo topic that is mental illness and its growing prevalence in the minds of so many Americans. Adam carried a gun, yes, but with him he also carried, deep-rooted issues and emotionally corrupt thoughts and a fiery wrath that was far beyond his control.
As the families and the friends of those lost in the massacre continue to heal from their own personal 9/11, let us not forget with them the day that changed our ability to trust and compromised our feelings of safety. Let us also commit to doing all that we can to prevent another Virginia Tech, Aurora, Ft. Hood, Tucson... Newtown, from happening again. Let us not remain quiet when someone or something doesn't seem right; let us speak up. In Simon & Garfunkel's "Sound Of Silence," the folk-rockers sing, "silence like a cancer grows." Cancer is unjust. It is sly in its nature, for it must be discovered before it metastasizes; it is taunting in its malice and it comes with a vengeance; to rob you heartlessly of those you hold most dear. Let us vow to never remain silent.
I've read that long lashed Noah Pozner loved to eat tacos. So much so, that he had dreamt of one day opening a taco factory when he grew up. His twin sister Arielle, remains a constant reminder of just how pure Noah's soul was. It has been said that curly haired Ana Marquez-Greene loved to practice ballet and had a singing voice that was larger than life. Who knows? Perhaps she would have grown up to become a famous singer. And it was written that Emilie Parker was the picture of perfection; a blonde angel princess who loved everything fancy. Jesse Lewis had written "I love you" in the frost that had stuck to his mother's car door before entering school that day. And there is a picture that was published of Jesse Lewis, looking relaxed and smiling on a beach, childhood innocence permeating from his very being. I can't seem to get that photo out of my head. His picture, among the many photos I have clicked through, will now always remain embedded in my mind.
The Mayan calendar had it all wrong; the world did not end on December 21st, 2012. For so many the world ended seven days before, on December 14th, 2012, with the sounding of Adam Lanza's gun.
One thing is for certain; the young souls of those no longer with us are gathered together in heaven, watching over their mommies and daddies and asking G-d to never allow something like this to ever happen again on their behalf. G-d is listening, hanging onto their every word, as only the power of a six or seven year old child can achieve.
The angels gather closely; Ana Marquez-Greene continues to sing her melody so pure, Emilie Parker dances around her in a pink fancy party dress, and Jesse Lewis wears a smile that says that - You know, he really is okay up there in heaven. And Noah Pozner stands back, his blue eyes shining with deep concentration as he continues to pass around his world famous tacos.