By John Voket
Those who knew her, either as neighborhood friends or individuals who worked at her Yogananda Street home, describe the mother and first victim of Sandy Hook School shooter, Adam Lanza, as a warm, caring parent and one who welcomed service workers like landscapers and painters with a smile and kind sentiment.
Dan Holmes of Holmes Fine Gardens, a local landscape design firm, worked at Nancy Lanza’s residence- some times on a weekly basis- over the course of several years.
“As recently as my last visit on December 7, Nancy expressed her appreciation to me for the work we did to help to decorate her house,” Mr. Holmes said. “Although I don’t recall ever seeing either of her sons, she spoke about them often.”
He said Nancy Lanza was meticulous in her dress and demeanor, expressed herself clearly but was not demanding in her requests. And while she talked about her sons in as high achievers in school, Mr. Holmes said he had the impression she was much more directly involved with her older son, Ryan, than Adam.
“I remember her telling me about an upcoming trip to New Orleans to go see Trombone Shorty, and that she was taking her older son,” Mr. Holmes said. “But her younger son wanted to stay home.”
He also recalled the day when Nancy Lanza called him into to her garage to show off an expensive new rifle she had just received, and that she previously talked about growing up on a farm and being exposed to and developing an affinity for target shooting in her younger years.
“She was not a hunter,” he said. “But she grew up on a farm in New Hampshire, so she was used to handling firearms. She showed me that beautiful, new rifle, and I thought she was looking forward to doing some target shooting with it.”
“She struck me as a very responsible gun owner,” Mr. Holmes added.
It is possible, however, that there was a period of time between her childhood and her acquaintance with Mr. Holmes that Nancy Lanza was not as interested in firearms. Alex Israel, a former neighbor of the Lanzas and classmate of Adam, said that she “never once heard a thing about the family visiting a shooting range or being involved with guns by any means. I was surprised to hear that in the news.”
She said Nancy Lanza “was always nice to me, she was a kind, typical suburban mom as far as I remember. I ran into her in the supermarket every now and then and she always asked how I was doing.”
Another local individual who asked not to be named, who did work frequently at the Lanza home, said he never saw or was shown any rifles when he was on the premises.
“I know she liked guns and she had a permit to carry one,” he said. “But she grew up on a farm with guns.”
The individual said he considered Nancy Lanza a friend, and that she was a welcoming and soft spoken individual- a good mom who loved her kids very much.
“I was there a lot and I never heard or saw any signs of fighting, never heard yelling or screaming,” he said. “As far as Adam was concerned, he was just a shy little kid. That’s why what happened is so hard to believe.”
Even as he grew into a high schooler, the workman said, Adam was exactly like many of the other teenagers at other homes where he worked.
“I had limited interaction with Adam. He stayed to himself, worked in his room on computers- a typical young person like all the other kids his age that I know,” the workman said. “There was never an inkling of violent tendencies.”
“Even before Ryan Lanza went away to school, neither one of them cared about me being around and doing what I had to do,” he added. “This is really hard for me. Everyone still needs to remember there is another young man here who has lost his brother and his mother.”
At the same time, the individual said he knows many of Adam Lanza’s victims.With his voice cracking, “I played with these kids, their parents came to the funeral when one of my parents died.”
Nancy Lanza also attended that funeral.
“She reached out to comfort me after my parent’s passing, and before the death she always asked how everything was going,” he added. “That’s why going to Nancy’s was one of my favorite places to work. She was very sweet.”
Ms. Israel said going back to her and Adam Lanza’s elementary school years, she lived a few houses down, rode the bus with him, and wanted to be his friend.
“We had a couple play dates. He was always different- keeping to himself, fidgeting and very quiet,” she said. “I could always tell he was a super smart kid, maybe just socially awkward, but something was off about him.”
As time went on, she said, Adam continued to keep to himself.
“I branched out more, so there was not much contact with him after middle school. Anytime I saw him on the bus, in the halls, at the cafeteria, he was alone,” Ms. Israel said. “I don’t know if he had any close friends.”
By the time high school came around, she said Adam “sort of disappeared.”
“I’d see him in the halls, walking quickly with his briefcase he carried, but I never had a class with him and never saw him with friends,” she said. “I do know he was involved in the technology club at school. I was yearbook editor and I remember he declined to be photographed or give us a senior quote or baby picture. Otherwise, I can’t say much else about him.”
Regarding the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, however, Mr. Israel, like the community, is still in a state of shock.
“It’s such a devastating tragedy for our close-knit community, something you’d never think would happen where you live, where you’ve grown up safely and soundly your whole life,” she said. “The teachers, students, police,and responders are all heroes for what they’ve done, as are those who died.”
“That something like this could be done by a human at all, let alone to innocent babies and people who devote their lives to helping and teaching them, is a tragedy and a horror that will never be forgotten,” Ms. Israel said. “I think a lot of people are still in disbelief, and will be for awhile. All I want to do is come home, hug my family, and do my best to support my strong community in this difficult time.”