TODAY

TODAY   |  March 10, 2014

Writer: Lanza's dad wishes son had never been born

Andrew Solomon, the New Yorker writer who interviewed Peter Lanza, the father of Sandy Hook Elementary School gunman Adam Lanza, speaks to TODAY's Savannah Guthrie about the father opening up for the first time the shooting. NBC’s Stephanie Gosk also reports. 

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> nearly 15 months since the tragic school shooting in newtown, connecticut, and the gunman's father is speaking publicly for the first time in the latest issue of the "new yorker ." we'll talk exclusively to the author of that article. but first, here's nbc's stephanie gosk.

>> reporter: there may never be a complete explanation of what drove adam lanza to kill himself, his mother and 26 students and teachers at sandy hook elementary school . but an article in this week's "new yorker " magazine gets as close as anything will. it's the first time lanza 's father has ever spoken to the media about the shooting. it's not like i ever go an hour when it doesn't cross my mind. peter lanza tells andrew zul man. he describes his son's unraveling and the pain he now struggles with. how much do i beat up on myself about the fact he's my son? as a young boy , lanza says adam was definitely different, but still, quote, a normal, weird little kid. as he grew older, the problems grew more visible. everyday life became almost impossible. the social awkwardness, the uncomfortable anxiety, the awkward walk, reduced eye contact. you could see the changes occurring. after their divorce, nancy lanza , adam 's mother took on the bulk of his carry, isolating him from the world and his father. peter lanza says he last saw his son two years before the shooting. e-mails from his ex-wife told him not to visit. now more than a year since the killing at sandy hook , lanza wishes his son adam had never been born. that's not a natural thing when you're thinking about your kid, but god, there's no question. for "today," stephanie gosk, nbc news, new york.

>> and andrew soloman is with us exclusively. he sat down with peter lanza six times for that interview. good morning.

>> pleasure to be here.

>> when i read that paragraph where he says he wishes adam had never been born, it took my breath away. what was his state of mind? how would you describe this man? he must be haunted.

>> he's haunted. he wishes that he could go back in time and fix what went wrong. he's a kind, decent man, and he's horrified that his own child could've caused this disruption.

>> why is he speaking out now? this is somebody who has maintained his privacy and his silence until now.

>> he said he'd been contacted by so many victims' families and said he finally thought his story was an important part of the puzzle and he had a moral obligation to tell it, that it might help the families or help prevent another newtown.

>> when something like this happens. inevitably, the scrutiny goes to the parents. did they miss signs? does your article and interviews shed any light on what was wrong with adam and what may have caused him to take this unspeakable act?

>> so adam had what was then called asberger's syndrome. and the autism made him as his father said, very weird. and because they had a diagnosis didn't occur to them that anything else was wrong.

>> no one is suggesting that autism caused him to be violent. but peter seems to believe that perhaps it masked a different diagnosis that should have been noted, perhaps schizophrenia, he said.

>> he said he thought it was just the asberger's and didn't look past it. but adam saw a huge number of psychiatrists and psychologists and none of them detected hints of violence.

>> what about the fact that peter lanza was essentially estranged from him the last two years of his life. when he looks at that now, does he feel he should've tried harder to reach his son?

>> he says he wishes he would've tried harder because anything might have changed the outcome and the outcome couldn't have been worse or more evil. but at the time, i didn't see it.

>> we learned, also that adam 's mother, in fact, wasn't exactly up front with peter about the decline of adam , about how bad things had gotten. what can you tell us about that?

>> nancy lanza was always trying to give adam a good day and she didn't think enough about giving him a good life. she dealt with the crises as they came along, and she wasn't open, she was trying to make everyone think everything was okay as her son got worse and worse.

>> does peter lanza blame his ex-wife?

>> he very specifically doesn't blame her. he said i was trying to hard, she was trying far harder. she did her best.

>> a lot of people have looked at her and wondered why she allowed all those weapons to be in the house when she knew her son had mental illness. did peter lanza know about that? what did he make of that decision?

>> you know, nancy lanza had grown up a live free or die new hampshire gal and had a sense that guns were part of everyday life . i think they had no sense that adam was dangerous. they thought he was peculiar but never thought he would hurt anyone. and peter said he was the safest, most cautious, most rule-following person i ever met.

>> peter met with a couple of the families. what did he say about those meetings?

>> he said they were heartbreaking. one of the families said to him they were ready to forgive adam . he said a family that lost their son, their only son. he said if my trading places with them could ease their heartbreak, i'd do it in a heartbeat.

>> that's something that peter lanza says he's not ready to do.

>> he is not. as the trailer indicated, he really felt he wished adam had never been born, and he said he struggled with coming to that. but what happened was so horrific, he could only wish it away.

>> well, andrew solomon , an extraordinary interview, i recommend people take a look at it. thank you very much.

>> thank you.

>> and we should mention it's in this week's "new yorker "