News / USA

As Newtown Mourns, Question of 'Why' Lingers

Jeanne Walker walks through an overflowing memorial to the shooting victims, Newtown, Connecticut, December 20, 2012.Jeanne Walker walks through an overflowing memorial to the shooting victims, Newtown, Connecticut, December 20, 2012.
x
Jeanne Walker walks through an overflowing memorial to the shooting victims, Newtown, Connecticut, December 20, 2012.
Jeanne Walker walks through an overflowing memorial to the shooting victims, Newtown, Connecticut, December 20, 2012.
As residents of Newtown, Connecticut, bury their dead — six teachers and 20 children killed by a gunman who shot his way into a grade-school classroom — much of the world has been watching.
 
"People from Japan, Cairo, Egypt, France, Poland... everybody even from all over the United States has been here," says firefighter Anthony Carpenter, standing outside Sandy Hook Elementary School.
 
But despite the global outpouring of emotion, one question remains universally inescapable: How could 20-year-old Adam Lanza, or anyone, kill children so young?
 
On the very same day of the attack, parents of students at Chenpeng Village Primary School in Henan province, China, were grappling with the exact same question as 22 of their own children lay wounded in hospital recovery rooms. A knife-wielding 36-year-old man set upon the kids in a frightening replay of knife and cleaver attacks that are only too fresh in the minds of Chinese parents.
 
According to retired FBI profiler Mary Ellen O'Toole, the choice of young victims can say a lot about the perpetrators.
 
"These are very young children, and so young that they would not pose a threat to the shooter whatsoever," she says of the Newtown attack. "Easy, also, to control."
 
Perhaps more disturbingly, O'Toole says Lanza may have known precisely why he chose young victims.
 
"If you kill children this young, you guarantee that you will get notoriety, and it will be international and you will basically shut down the world for a period of time," she says. "The only way he [Lanza] could have made this worse would be to have [the victims] ... holding puppies and kittens."
 
While countries such as Argentinea, Azerbaijan, Yemen, Scotland, Norway and Finland are no strangers to targeted killings of young students, war-torn Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan have witnessed many, the most recent of which — October's Taliban shooting of a 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai — has also drawn international attention.
 
But O'Toole warns against drawing too many parallels.
 
"You've got different motives and even though you have the same result, you may have different personalities," she says. "The same results but different personality make-ups of the offender."
 
According to the American Psychological Association's Dr. Elizabeth Carll, who works with the United Nations on children and trauma, there is also another key difference.
 
"In situations where a child is living in a war zone, so to speak, it may not be so surprising to experience violence," she says. "It is still very traumatic, and obviously recovery and support is necessary."
 
But the shock value, she adds, is constant and undifferentiated.
 
"Certainly the pain and suffering is no different whether it is in China, the Middle East or the U.S.," says Carll.
 
But in Newtown, Connecticut, there is now only that grief — and the knowledge that no explanation of why will ever be good enough.

Jeff Seldin

Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is national security correspondent. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs