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

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party 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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs