NEWTOWN, Conn. — In the weeks and months before Adam Lanza tore through an elementary school with an assault rifle and horrified this tight-knit town, his mother was considering moving him to Washington state, said a close family friend.
Mark Tambascio, a restaurant proprietor who had known Nancy Lanza for several years, said she had recently discovered a school that seemed to suit him.
“They were going to move out there together,” he said Sunday night.
“He was her whole life. She was very proud of both of her sons,” Tambascio added. “She never mentioned that [Adam] was suicidal or violent. Nothing like that. Everyone that had spent any time around him, they knew he was a little bit different, but you never saw any major, major issues.”
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Police say Lanza, 20, fired multiple shots Friday morning, killing his mother before heading to Sandy Hook Elementary School. There, he killed 20 children, six adults and then himself. On Sunday, friends gathered at My Place, Tambascio’s bar and restaurant, to watch on television the interfaith vigil that was taking place less than 21 / 2 miles away.
Red bows and white lights hung from the bar, and the room was respectfully silent as President Obama spoke. He noted the 20 dead children and six dead adults.
“Seven,” one patron said beneath her breath, an acknowledgment of her lost friend.
Nancy Lanza, who was 52, had been close to Tambascio and his family and frequented the restaurant, befriending many regulars.
“Her kids were always first,” Tambascio said. “She was very concerned about, obviously Adam — very difficult bringing somebody like that up. She put everyone else first.” He said she didn’t work but volunteered extensively in the community. “She was far from lazy. She was very active,” he said, “and humble.”
Tambascio said everyone at My Place was under the impression that Adam had Asperger disorder, a form of autism. Nancy Lanza described her son to friends as a genius of sorts with a high IQ who was able to complete his high school studies in the 10th grade. He occasionally came into My Place with his mother and had dinner and was fidgety and quiet.
“It was hard to really engage in any real conversation,” he said. “It was like his mind was going a million miles an hour.”
Tambascio said that Adam had recently begun driving, the result of his mother’s effort to help him accept more responsibility.
“It looked like he was getting it, which was hard considering the circumstances,” Tambascio said. “She was trying to get him into real life. It was very difficult for her, and it was getting harder and harder as he got older. Like for any of us, life gets harder once the real responsibilities come.”
Gerald Roche, 46, met Nancy at an area restaurant and they continued their friendship as regulars at My Place. He said he actually only knew her first name.
“She was very bright and very attractive. She was a very outgoing woman,” he said. Roche said she talked about her old career in finance, telling him she had once worked on Wall Street. She had season tickets to the Red Sox, he said, but rarely brought up her family life, at least to him.
He came as others did to her favorite bar to watch the memorial service and to mourn over a glass of wine.
Carl Clabette said he also knew Nancy as a bar friend. “She never talked about her sons or her troubles,” he said. “We knew one of her kids had issues but nothing I thought that would lead to something like this. She didn’t come here to talk about her problems. She came here to escape.”
The bar was mostly silent as patrons watched the vigil on three flat-screen televisions. They held hands, cried and found comfort in each other’s arms. When it was finished, the televisions were muted. Then Tambascio called for a moment of silence.
Julie Tate and Alice R. Crites in Washington contributed to this report.