February 20, 2013

Watch Raising Adam Lanza on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

How do you make sense of a seemingly senseless act of violence? How do you help the country begin to process the trauma of 20 small children shot dead in their classroom?

The Hartford Courant and Frontline are piecing together the lives of Nancy Lanza and her son Adam, who killed his mother and 26 first-graders, school officials and teachers during the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December.

Adam attended Sandy Hook as a first-grader, but his mother pulled him out of the school and several other schools over the course of his childhood.

In addition to Asperger’s syndrome, Adam from an early age also had sensory integration disorder, which left him unable to handle loud noises, pain and crowds, but is not a universally accepted medical diagnosis.

As a child, Adam got upset when others gave him a high-five or a pat on the back. It saddened his mother, Nancy, who didn’t know how to help him.

Andrew Julien, editor of The Hartford Courant, points out: “Nancy Lanza is the person Adam was closest to in the world. She was the first person he killed. He shot her four times in the head while she was in bed, and then he went off to Sandy Hook Elementary School. If we can begin to understand Adam’s relationship with Nancy, we probably can begin to understand Adam.”

Part one, Raising Adam Lanza, draws on Nancy’s own emails, previously unseen photos and exclusive home video footage of Adam, as well as insider interviews, to reveal a mother’s complex relationship with her troubled young son. Part two, Newtown Divided follows Courant reporter Matt Kauffman as he explores the consequences of the shooting in a town that has a long history of firearms and gun ownership, and where people most deeply affected by the tragedy are wrestling with our nation’s gun culture and laws.

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